Latest update March 25th, 2023 12:57 AM
Jan 07, 2016 News
– more than half of production leaving illegally
It appears that gold smuggling in Guyana has attracted some serious attention from the US Government.
Late last year, amidst deep worry by the new administration over billions of dollars in lost taxes and royalties, a team from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the US premier investigative law enforcement agency, and the Department of Homeland Security, visited Guyana and briefed authorities here on their findings.
The information reportedly fingered a number of big players in the industry.
The interest of the FBI could spell serious problems for local miners and others involved in gold smuggling.
Already, reportedly, the US has yanked the visas of a number of miners and other players who were believed to have been involved in gold smuggling and possible money laundering.
The issue came to light shortly after the administration took office last May.
The Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) has been investigating with a special gold anti-smuggling task force appointed by Government established to handle the problem.
Yesterday, Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, disclosed that based on reports, it is estimated that approximately 15,000 ounces of gold is slipping across the borders every month. Trotman tentatively put the smuggled figures between 50 and 60 percent of total production.
The smuggling problem would indeed be significant if one is to take into account, that gold declarations were more than 451,000 ounces last year, earning in excess of US$500M.
Guyana’s royalties and taxes from this alone worked out to some US$40M.
The smuggled gold meant that Guyana lost out at least US$40M, not an insignificant amount by any means.
Trotman disclosed that the gold was being smuggled to Brazil, and through Suriname to Europe,
It has been landing in Miami, Florida and the JFK Airport, New York as well.
With Guyana charging seven percent in royalties and taxes, smugglers have been making a killing smuggling it out and selling it for more money in Suriname where the taxes are lower.
The FBI report to local authorities here would have spoken also of the money trail, and how the smugglers attempted to hide the money from the Guyana government to avoid taxes.
During meetings here, the FBI and Homeland Security officials would have met with Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, Trotman, SOCU and the regulators.
Minister Trotman admitted that the FBI would have spoken about the persons of interest in the country that were in their radar.
Trotman said from indications, it appears that smugglers may be gathering gold from Venezuela and Colombia as part of their shipments.
The official made it clear that Government will not divulge the names of the persons of interest at this time.
However, a number of big dealers and traders have been fingered in the smuggling racket.
There are other ways that gold may be tampered, the Minister revealed.
Before the Guyana Gold Board started its clampdown last year, there were indications of Customs forms and even seals being recycled.
Trotman said that it is a fact that attempts will continuously be made to beat the system.
Already, Government has completed new guidelines for gold exporting. A new board of directors of the Guyana Gold Board is set to consider new licensing requirements for dealers and traders later this month.
He said that the industry, which took a beating in declarations and poor world prices for gold in 2014, is showing positive signs of recovery with small miners making a better showing last year.
The industry managed 451,000 ounces at the end of the year, at least 60,000 ounces more than in 2014.
It meant small miners alone would have contributed more than 400,000 as the two large-scale producers, Guyana Goldfields Inc. and Troy Resources, managed 40,000 ounces between them.
Gold last year took the top spot as the biggest foreign currency earner after falling behind sugar and rice in 2014.
The industry has been on an upswing in recent years as world prices rose to US$1900 before falling to US$1,060 per ounce at the end of last year.
Meanwhile, Trotman disclosed that following complaints of corruption, his Ministry has decided to change the way duty free concessions are being approved for miners.
The Minister said that from now on, every fortnight, eligible miners who have applied for duty free concessions on excavators and mining equipment, will have to meet with him and a team from the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) for approvals.
This decision became necessary after Trotman learnt that persons were charging US$3,000 for every approval he granted.
“I was unaware that this was the fee being charged and so I have arranged to start a series of duty free concessions hearing, where the miners themselves will appear with GGMC officials with myself and other officials of the ministry and we speak to them on that.”
The idea will be to reduce allegations of impropriety and create a more transparent process for the acquisition of duty free concessions, he said.
They are being paid while we are being played…your pain is their gain!
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