NICIL under fire for “unlawfully” seizing guns, ammo from GuySuCo
… Corporation says arms were acquired for its security dept
… claims weapons now in possession of SPU officers
Sparks continue to fly between the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited/Special Purpose Unit (NICIL/SPU) and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), this time over the seizure of guns and ammunition.
This was revealed in a statement issued by GuySuCo on Wednesday. The Corporation disclosed that the arms and ammunition which it acquired and issued to its security department were now unlawfully in the possession of the SPU.
According to the Sugar Corporation, the weapons were originally at the Rose Hall and Skeldon Sugar Estates in Berbice, but were now unlawfully in possession of officers attached to NICIL’s SPU.
GuySuCo explained that since the Estates were divested in December 2017, the SPU has been refusing to return the firearms and ammunition claiming that they were vested as a part of Skeldon and Rose Hall Estates.
The Sugar Corporation noted that the matter was duly reported months ago to Police Commissioner Leslie James and other relevant authorities, but it was still awaiting the return of the firearms and ammunition.
“The Corporation, its officers, employees, servants, and agents shall not be liable for any injuries, loss of life, damage to property or any other claims resulting from the use and/or misuse of the said firearms and ammunition at the abovementioned two Estates from 31 December 2017 to the date when they are returned to the Corporation’s possession,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
The Corporation pointed out that firearms could not be vested, unlike the millions of dollars’ worth of property that SPU has vested and was in the process of selling to private individuals. GuySuCo pointed out that in the case of these guns, they were licensed exclusively to the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc.
This is the latest incident in the fractious relationship between NICIL and GuySuCo. The SPU, a part of the Finance Ministry’s NICIL, was created primarily to divest billions of dollars in assets held by GuySuCo.
Previously, NICIL has claimed GuySuCo has not been forthcoming with information to aid in the divestment; GuySuCo has denied this and has countered with evidence of records of submitted information and concerns that NICIL has been less than transparent about the process.
GuySuCo had criticised NICIL for the current arrangement that sees NICIL pocketing proceeds from the assets it divested. GuySuCo claimed that it should be the other way around, so that the Corporation could fund its own strategic plan.
Reports then emerged of unsavoury deals being made by NICIL, particularly when it comes to the millions of dollars’ worth of scrap metal that forms GuySuCo’s asset base. According to a NICIL staff who stepped forward under the condition of anonymity, certain officials at NICIL/SPU have been making backroom deals with select scrap metal exporters and profiting handsomely.
One exporter in particular is an Indian national, who, the staff said, is related to one of the officials. This exporter, the staff said, was given the contract to purchase scrap metals from GuySuCo, which he proceeded to then export out of Guyana by the container load over the past year. This, the staff noted, is despite the fact that the exporter was once implicated in a scandal involving the forgery of customs documents to export scrap metal.
In April of this year, reports had also emerged that scrap metal from GuySuCo worth $3 billion was sold to a mysterious buyer, but the proceeds from the sale were not received by the Corporation.
This is another transaction the Government has been silent on, with former Business Minister Dominic Gaskin distancing his Ministry from the sale when questioned by <<<Guyana Times>>> in April. The Business Ministry has overall responsibility for the scrap metal trade.
Nor is that all. According to GuySuCo, it is yet to be informed by NICIL about the extent of the valuation done by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) into its assets – information others, including Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo, have repeatedly called for.