Eric Phillips and Charles Ceres applied for ultra-deep-sea oil drilling licence
…with absolutely no experience in such drilling
…Phillips should recuse self from SARA’s investigation of other oil blocks – former AG
Recent revelations that in addition to questionable land deals State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) Executive Eric Phillips has a stake and beneficial interests in an oil company angling to get its hands on oil blocks in Guyana are a cause for serious concern.
This is according to former Attorney General Anil Nandlall, who, in a recent interview with Guyana Times, pointed out that not only did Phillips have clear political affiliations while operating as an investigator at SARA, but it has now been revealed that he had financial interests in the oil and gas sector, at a time when oil block allocations were being investigated.
“I have written articles contending that Eric Phillips (and) Clive Thomas should not be investigators at SARA. They should not hold executives’ positions in SARA, because of the functions of SARA, due to their political affiliations. These are politicians, they cannot be holding positions in law enforcement,” Nandlall said.
“Now you have another disclosure that this gentleman has a personal interest in the oil blocks. How can he be an objective investigator, (with) a personal pecuniary interest that obviously contaminates his objectivity?”
SARA has of recent turned its attention to investigating the award of various oil blocks to companies such as Ratio Guyana and Mid Atlantic Oil and Gas, on the basis that these companies allegedly have no track record in independently exploring for oil and developing oil blocks.
This is despite the fact that ABR Oil and Gas – a company with a given address of 9 Thomas Lands, Georgetown in which Phillips has a 15 per cent stake, along with Charles Ceres (25%); Violet Smith (25%), and Osafo George (15%) – has even less experience in drilling for oil.
In their application, there was mention that one of the principals had experience with a company that had drilled a single well on land in the Takutu Basin. This means that no one had experience drilling for undersea oil much less in ultra-deep waters which less than a handful of companies in the entire world has.
Despite its newcomer status, it was recently revealed in sections of the media that it has a pending application to explore a Block C offshore concession in an area adjoining the Kaieteur and Canje blocks. In the application, it was stated that the company was seeking the licence for a duration of 10 years. They claimed to be in possession of US$5 million to spend and sources contend the source of the funds should be checked for possible Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) violations.
According to sources, however, the principals involved could stand to make billions of dollars in profits if they acquired the concession and then sold their stakes in it to more qualified companies. This is a possibility as a number of big names like ExxonMobil and Total have a working interest in the nearby Canje Block.
“(Phillips) should, therefore, not be in charge of any investigation in relation to oil blocks,” Nandlall stressed. “You cannot be in charge in an investigative arm of the State if you are politically tainted or if you have vested financial interests. And he has both!”
Last month, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had dropped a bombshell revelation that Government has been quietly distributing massive tracts of prime State lands to employees of the Ministry of the Presidency as well as to cronies in the People’s National Congress (PNC)-led A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) faction of the coalition Government and officials of SARA, which was formed to recover State assets.
The lands were all strategically located to massively benefit the beneficiaries from the coming oil boom. Jagdeo had revealed that most of the leases for these plots of prime real estate were issued by the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GL&SC) after the December passage of the Opposition-sponsored No-Confidence Motion that caused the Government to fall. And of all the names to surface, Phillips had been one of the most prominently featured.
Phillips had vehemently denied back in February that he ever applied for, or received 3000 acres of lands as was then being claimed. But the Opposition Leader had pointed to GL&SC File No. 321132/1604 which showed 1000 acres in the Essequibo River was issued to Phillips in April 2019 and File No. 3312317 for another 1000 acres in the Demerara River.