Local Content Certification: Tax evasion, false declarations concern Govt on Ramps Logistics’ eligibility

…mulls appealing court ruling

The Government on Monday announced that it is exploring all available options including appealing acting Chief Justice Roxane George’s ruling for Ramps Logistics (Guyana) to be issued with a Local Content Certificate. The Government noted that it respected the rule of law and the independence of the Judiciary and therefore complied with her honour’s orders.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC

However, the Natural Resources Ministry pointed out that it has strong concerns as to the eligibility of Ramps Logistics (Guyana) for Local Content Certification.
“The Government of Guyana also noted the recent settlement by the company and the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) on the matter of tax evasion and also the ongoing litigations in ten (10) false tax declarations to the GRA,” said the Local Content Secretariat in a statement.
The Local Content Secretariat assured that it would continue to act in a professional manner and defend the people of Guyana consistent with the Local Content Act.

Being drafted
The Attorney General’s Chambers, on the other hand, said that it has not yet received a copy of the Chief Justice’s ruling, but upon receipt, same would be scrupulously examined to determine, inter alia, whether there will be further proceedings. From its inception, the Government indicated that the Local Content Act was an initial attempt to create a novel statutory framework in respect of a new undertaking, indeed without comparison in the region.
“As a result, we promised that it will remain under constant review and will be modified and refined with time and experience. We are satisfied that the Act provides a solid foundation that has guided the sector thus far and enabled a protective network for the interest of Guyanese and Guyanese companies operating in the sector,” the Attorney General’s Chambers noted.

Trinidad-based investor Deepak Lall

Justice George, in her ruling, observed that the Local Content Act “may be deficient” as “it has no regulations, or rules whatsoever” which, she emphasised, are needed to prevent arbitrary decision-making. The Solicitor General had assured her that these deficiencies will be looked at.
Importantly, the AG’s Chambers revealed that regulations and guidelines for the Act are already in draft and will now benefit from the Chief Justice’s ruling and experience garnered in the sector.
According to the Chambers, these regulations and guidelines will further enhance the legislative framework, as well as set out criteria that will inform the exercise of discretion and guide the decision-making processes enshrined in the legislation.

Ramps Logistics (Guyana) CEO Shaun Rampersad

“These measures will also address the conduct of operators in the sector, including their compliance levels with related legislative and administrative requirements, as we strive to achieve the legislation’s core intent, that is, to protect and promote Guyana’s best interest.”

Charges, fined
In October, the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) had instituted 10 charges against Ramps Logistics (Guyana) over alleged false declarations made.
According to the GRA, these charges, which are in accordance with the provisions of the Customs Act, and filed at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts, stemmed from a recently completed investigation carried out by its Law Enforcement and Investigations Division.
It is alleged that between 2021 and 2022, at GRA’s Camp Street, Georgetown headquarters, the company made several false declarations for consideration of a customs officer, on an application presented for tax exemption on items. Ramps Logistics’ CEO, Shaun Rampersad, appeared in court on behalf of the company and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
He was released on $500,000 bail and is due back in court on November 25.
The 10 charges are not the first run-in Ramps Logistics has had with the Revenue Authority here. It was revealed in June of this year that the company was fined $20 million by GRA for violating local customs laws. Ramps Logistics acts as the agent of motor vessel—Seacor Mixteca—and, according to GRA, had failed to report the vessel departing Guyana, which violates the Customs Act. Hence, the fine was paid in lieu of court proceedings being instituted against the company.
Meanwhile, Ramps Logistics in a statement on Friday, said it welcomed the Chief Justice’s decision. According to the company, “this win is significant for the people of Guyana” and the swift verdict shows the independence of the courts in the country.
It said that Justice George’s ruling also demonstrates that private and foreign businesses can invest in Guyana with the support of a fair and transparent judicial system.
“Those following our case should feel confident that the judicial system in Guyana is sound, and independent and will support those willing to invest in and grow Guyana’s economy.”
According to Ramps Logistics, it is willing and committed to working with the Government and the people of Guyana to make Guyana shine on the world stage.
After being issued with its certification on Monday, the company issued the following statement:
“This certification means that the company is registered in the Local Content Registry and is certified to provide goods and services to the local oil and gas sector. We are grateful for all who have stood by us during the past few months, especially our team members who have remained strong throughout this process. We remain committed to working with the Local Content Secretariat to develop local content in Guyana and ensure more opportunities within the oil and gas sector remain among its people, businesses, and communities.”
In a recent interview with the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian, the company’s CEO said he believed that “dark forces” in the Guyanese private sector want him out of the country but encouraged T&T companies to invest in Guyana because it has lots of potential.
He is confident that the company will be cleared of all charges. “We will be cleared of the charges as they are bogus. Are they going to put the lives of more than 400 employees in Guyana on the breadline? I flew to Guyana, so I could go to court and defend myself,” he told the Guardian.
The local Private Sector Commission (PSC), however, rejected Rampersad’s statements as being without basis in fact or reality, totally misguided and completely out of place.
The PSC had said: “The challenges facing Ramps Logistics have no linkage to the local private sector. The private sector is obliged to comply with the Laws of Guyana and has no control over the Local Content Secretariat, the Guyana Revenue Authority, or any other compliance agency with regard to meeting the Local Content requirements to operate in Guyana’s oil sector.”
The PSC pointed out that it has been welcoming investors from Caribbean Community member countries and further afield to foster business growth and national development.
“Indeed, it is the private sector that advocated and fought for the local content legislation to protect the interest of local businesses, but we are also cognisant that we do not currently possess all the skills and resources our country requires.  We shall continue to advocate for partnership and joint ventures from all investors and countries interested in doing business and the development of Guyana while adhering to the laws of Guyana…”
Ramps Logistics is one of the largest logistics companies serving Guyana’s oil and gas sector.