Central Bank revokes Mohamed’s cambio licence

– Govt seeks to safeguard against US sanctions – VP Jagdeo
…requests info for local investigations, prosecutions

Following the imposition of sanctions on businessman Nazar Mohamed and his son Azruddin Mohamed by the United States Government earlier this week, the Bank of Guyana (BoG) has moved to revoke the cambio licence issued to Mohamed’s Enterprise – one of the companies fingered in gold smuggling and corruption allegations along with their owners.
This is one of a series of actions taken by the Guyana Government since US sanctions were announced against the Mohameds as well as three of their companies, including Mohamed’s Enterprise.

Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Senior Government official Mae Thomas, Permanent Secretary of the Labour Ministry, who had previously held the same portfolio at the Home Affairs Ministry, has also been sanctioned by the US, and has been sent on leave by her employer.
During a press conference on Thursday, Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo disclosed that the BoG had indicated to the senior Mohamed that his licence for Confidential Cambio, located on Lombard Street in Georgetown, would be revoked.
“The Central Bank has notified us that they’ve already indicated to the Mohameds that they will cancel their cambio licence,” the VP noted.
Following this announcement, a copy of the formal letter issued by the BoG – dated June 13, 2024 – has been circulated, confirming that the licence has been revoked in accordance with the Dealers in Foreign Currency (Licensing) Act 1989.
According to Jagdeo, contrary to conflicting claims being made in certain quarters, “…we are neither protecting the Mohameds nor are we witch-hunting the Mohameds. We’ve made it clear from the very beginning that people who break the law will face the consequences; and therefore, if the Mohameds break the law, they will face the consequences.”

Nazar Mohamed

However, the Vice President noted that these individuals have the right, as Guyanese, to due process. He added that these persons, as well as their companies, have a right to challenge the US sanctions and prove the allegations against them are false.
According to Jagdeo, the cambio licence is part of the country’s financial system, and its revocation is key to safeguarding the state against the US sanctions.
“We’ve also asked on Tuesday that the FIU [Financial Intelligence Unit] and the Bank of Guyana to prepare a report on the implications of the sanctions on our financial system…We want to safeguard our financial system. That would mean exposures of our bank to the Mohameds and any other matter that would have a direct bearing of a financial nature on our system, because we’re obligated to do so under the sanctions – to safeguard the financial sectors of Guyana,” he explained.
In addition, other regulatory agencies of the Government have been instructed to similarly review their transactions with the individuals and companies in question, and submit those reports so that the Government can ensure it complies with the sanctions’ regime in order to avoid exposure to the consequences of being non-compliant.

Request for information
The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on Tuesday sanctioned the two prominent Guyanese businessmen along with their companies: Mohamed’s Enterprise; its subsidiary Hadi’s World; and Team Mohamed’s Racing Team, for their alleged roles in public corruption in Guyana.
The US Treasury Dept has also alleged that Mohamed’s Enterprise evaded paying Guyana tax on gold exports, and defrauded the Guyana Government of tax revenues by under-declaring their gold exports to Guyanese authorities. Between 2019 and 2023, Mohamed’s Enterprise is alleged to have omitted more than 10 thousand kilograms of gold from import and export declarations, and avoided paying more than US$50 million in duty taxes to the Government of Guyana, the report detailed.

Azruddin Mohamed

In light of these revelations, VP Jagdeo, who noted that Guyana was not formally informed of this multi-year investigation by the US authority, has said that Government is focused on getting from counterparts in the US details of the alleged corruption cited, and has since requested this information.
Citing allegations made by the Treasury Department: of falsification of import and export documents, evasion of taxes, and bribery of customs and Government officials to facilitate illicit gold shipments and awarding of Government contracts, Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh on Tuesday wrote the US Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, asking that the “relevant information and documentation” be shared with Guyana on the officials and transactions involved.
Dismissing notions of the US Government not trusting Guyanese authorities, the Vice President has referred to the strong collaborative relationship between the two countries, and is confident of getting this information from the US to aid in local probes. In fact, he cautioned that strong action would be taken against those found culpable.
“We want to know who the officials are – the Government officials. We’ve asked the US Government at a top level…for all of the information about these illegal transactions in smuggling, as well as all the Government officials involved,” he disclosed.
Moreover, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) has dispatched a detailed, multi-page letter to the head of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), outlining all the information that Guyana would need, dating back to 2015, in order to go after perpetrators. The GRA has asked that this information be handed over before December 31, 2024 so that the statute of limitations would not be exceeded; that is, the length of time within which the state can take legal actions against perpetrators.
“We’re going directly to the United States [and] we’d like to get information as to whether [this gold] was seized in the US; what information they have on it; to whom it was sold; who carried it out [of Guyana].
All of this information we’d like to get, so we can then move to take action here; first of all, to recover the taxes lost, and then we can take action to prosecute people if they breach our law,” the VP has said.
Following the announcement of the US sanctions on Tuesday, the Guyana Government said it takes the claims very seriously, and will continue to engage relevant US entities on these matters. It added that it would continue to work with the United States Government on all matters of mutual interest, including respect for the rule of law and order.
Meanwhile, US State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller said Tuesday’s actions support the US Strategy on Countering Corruption, which identifies the fight against corruption as a national security priority.
“The United States is committed to exposing corruption and promoting accountability for corrupt acts worldwide. We will continue to use the tools at our disposal to protect our financial system from abuse by corrupt actors,” Miller noted.