Dec 06, 2015 News
Chief among the complaints made to the State Asset Recovery Unit (SARU) are those on corrupt land
deals. But SARU’s Head, Dr. Clive Thomas is alarmed that Chinese logging company, BaiShanLin has been like a recurring decimal among the hundreds of allegations on crooked land deals which pour in on a daily basis.
It has led him to start a detailed investigation into the company’s operations in Guyana.
Dr.Thomas said, recently, “Corrupt land deals is perhaps our number one complaint here. But we are concerned that BaiShanLin has so many complaints against it. And when we made some checks, we found some disturbing things. We had no option but to zero in on their operations because they involve, what I deem to be, the unlawful attainment, disposal and use of the state’s assets. And that I cannot sit by and watch continue.”
The economist continued, “As such, we have launched an investigation into that entity. We have already prepared a detailed document on them and their operations since they came into Guyana. The report shows that they are a major source of corrupt land deals. This company has been operating very crookedly in Guyana.”
The Presidential Advisor said that there have been numerous startling irregularities under the Chinese logging company but said that based on the nature of the investigations, he would not be inclined to reveal the findings at this stage.
“We don’t want them to have a clue about the depth of our knowledge on them. Let them wonder what we do and don’t know. But if you see the blocks of land that they own. I know the nation and the government I am sure are not aware of how far their ownership runs. But we are doing some map work and with that, we will be able to display all the places they own.
“But I will not release the details of what we have at this point. What I can say is that they probably own more land than the Guyana Sugar Corporation at this point and they acquired it through a lot of Memoranda of Understanding signed with the PPP,” Dr. Thomas said.
He added, “This is a wicked, wicked situation we are facing here. BaiShanLin under the PPP was gobbling up state resources everywhere. There are some serious networks of criminality that were allowed to just flourish under the previous administration. And the investigation will unearth everything.”
BaiShanLin is one of the largest companies in the logging industry and had been able to acquire so much wealth and concessions from the previous government that it has been able to spread its reach into other industries, inclusive of the housing and mining sectors.
Earlier this year, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) announced in a statement that Chu Hongbo, the principal in BaiShanLin Forest Development Inc., became a naturalized Guyanese and thus was entitled to acquire the properties via the relevant systems under the Mining Act and Regulations.
In fact, 98 of his Mining Permits listed were won via an open competitive bidding process at last year’s auction.
Last year, Sunset Lakes Inc. which is a subsidiary company of BaiShanLin, unveiled its plans to start an extravagant and lush gated community in Providence with homes costing from $40M. Questions arose as to how the Chinese company got access to prime state lands but the former administration was tightlipped about the transaction and so was the company.
BaiShanLin had also promised that it would set up a wood processing factory in Guyana but it has been over ten years and this promise is yet to be fulfilled. It recently requested from the new administration, an extension of two more years to get the facility up and running.
While this has not been granted, Government has in the interim, placed a ban on the company’s ability to export logs.
Minister of Governance, Raphael Trotman, had said some months ago that companies such as BaiShanLin would be given until the end of last October, to get their act together, or else sanctions would be instituted.
But nothing of the sort has happened. In explaining the company’s position as communicated to him, Trotman had said, “In terms of BaiShanLin, we had met with them on successive occasions and we have had discussions with other foreign companies that have been in the forestry sector. BaiShanLin as we know and I don’t think it’s a secret that it has not complied in its entirety. I have met with representatives of the China Development Bank who of course are financing BaiShanLin.
“I am led to believe that the company itself is in the process of restructuring. Then it will re-engage with the government, but for now there has been a pause because there has been a process of restructuring its corporate activities and seeking new financing from China Development Bank.”
The Governance Minister also said that when he last spoke with the company, he was informed that the Chinese logging company was in no position to have the mills that it said it would have imported within the next ten months.
As a result of this sad situation for the company he said, “They have asked for two years and we have had discussions with them about an alternative mill and that is on board. But as I said, much depends on BaiShanLin securing the financing.”
BaiShanLin had given conflicting reasons in the past to justify the delay in establishing this wood-processing facility.
In 2014, BaiShanLin blamed the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest) for delaying its application for its wood processing factory. In one of its advertisements, the company stated that in 2008, it applied to the “Government of Guyana, through the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest) and other agencies, to lease lands to set up a factory to process logs and engage in value-added production, such as the making of furniture, craft and hardwood flooring.”
It had said then that it was experiencing delays.
Kaieteur News later reported that GO-Invest had no such application. BaiShanLin had nothing to say when this was revealed. This caused many, including the then opposition, to challenge the previous government to make public the investment agreement it signed onto with the Chinese logging company. This was never done.
In April, the company then blamed the “hostile” media reports during 2014 for dispiriting financiers.
In a statement, the Chinese company had said that it is concerned about the apparent “misrepresentations and false reports” being carried by some sections of the media on its operations in Guyana. It identified Kaieteur News as the leader of the “hostile” campaign and even cited a KN article with the headline: ‘BaiShanLin delays US$70M wood processing factory for gold, housing, logging.’
But in its statement, it did not deny that it was approved ‘US$70M’ for certain activities.
With regard to the wood processing plant in the Linden area that was to be constructed, BaiShanLin, one of the largest exporters of the country’s prime species of wood, had complained that it has indeed suffered major setbacks in completing its wood processing facility that will create hundreds of jobs for Guyanese.
It claimed that these “setbacks” directly relate to lack of adequate funding from its financiers, who, since last year “when these sustained attacks began,” became concerned about the “soundness of investing further in what appeared to be a hostile environment.”
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