Mohamed’s Cambio licence to be cancelled – VP says Govt ‘neither protecting nor witch-hunting’ the family

Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo has made it clear that the Guyana Government is neither “protecting nor witch-hunting” the Mohameds family, in light of the recent sanctions that were imposed against them by the US government.

Jagdeo made this position known during a press conference on Thursday, in response to commentary on the government’s posture on the imposition of sanctions against prominent businessman, Nazar Mohamed and his son, Azruddin Mohamed and their associated entities including Mohamed’s Enterprise, Hadi’s World, and Team Mohamed’s Racing Team.

“We made it clear that people who break the law will face the consequences…therefore, if the Mohameds break the law, they will face the consequences,” Jagdeo said.

“But they have a right to due process like any other citizens,” he added.

Nevertheless, Jagdeo reaffirmed that the government intends to fully investigate the matter and work in full partnership with the US government.

“A government can’t work like a social media commentator, it has to be deliberate, serious and it has to work in a framework, particularly in this case where the actions against the identified individuals will spend largely on the evidence that we’d received from the USA,” the Vice President said.

He noted that the Minister with responsibility for Finance Dr. Ashni Singh on Tuesday wrote a letter to the Secretary to the US Treasury Department, requesting information on all illegal transactions and Government officials who are involved. Jagdeo added that “there will be no protection” to any government official involved in illegal activities.

Further, a letter was sent to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) requesting other information that will aid in the recovery of taxes and the implementation of systems to protect the local economy.

The United States alleged that some 10,000 kilogrammes of gold were smuggled out of this country between 2019-2023.

The current Commissioner General of the GRA is Mr. Godfrey Statia who has been in that position since 2015. However, according to the VP, Mr. Statia said no letter on gold smuggling or related issues was ever sent to GRA.

The Vice President added that it is not clear whether the “smuggled gold” was declared in the US or to whom it was sold since no previous information was received. As such, he said the Government of Guyana is seeking information from the US in order to guide its next steps.

However, Jagdeo revealed that the Bank of Guyana and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) are taking steps to protect the local financial system from risks associated with the sanctions.

Included in the steps is the cancellation of Mohamed’s Cambio licence.

“We’ve also asked the FIU and the BOG to prepare a report on the implications of the sanction for our financial system – exposures of our banks to the Mohameds and anything else that will affect our financial system,” he said.

“We have also asked all of the other agencies that engages the Mohameds to review their transactions and present a report to the GOG to ensure we’re in full compliance with the sanctions regime,” the Vice President added.

As it relates to Government contracts awarded to the Mohameds from 2020 to date, he noted that there were two contracts which have since been completed.

Going forward, the Government will be looking to strengthen its systems to stop gold smuggling with the help of a consultant and the countries importing Guyana’s gold.

Meanwhile, also facing sanctions is Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Labour Mae Thomas, who was only recently transferred from her role as Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs.

That transfer was made after Thomas was detained by US officials at the Miami International Airport for questioning last year. Following the sanctions, she has been sent on leave and has also resigned from the PPP.

The sanctions against the Guyanese trio were announced by the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on Tuesday.

The US Treasury Department said the trio were sanctioned for their alleged roles in public corruption in Guyana.

The US Treasury Department also alleged that Mohamed’s Enterprise evaded Guyana’s tax on gold exports and defrauded the Guyanese government of tax revenues by under-declaring their gold exports to Guyanese authorities.

The Department also alleged that while being Permanent Secretary to the Home Affairs Ministry, Thomas used her position to offer benefits to Mohamed’s Enterprise and Azruddin, among others, in exchange for cash payments and high-value gifts.