– human trafficking suspicion cited
There is evidence that as far back as 2013, concerns were raised by British and German immigration officials over the huge number of Chinese workers that were brought into Guyana by Baishanlin International Forest Development.
According to correspondence between former Government ministers and Guyana’s Embassy in China, seen by Kaieteur News, as far back as 2013, the manner in which the Chinese company was requesting visas for Chinese workers left much to be desired.
The embassy in October 2013 wrote the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, complaining that Baishanlin was warned not to book tickets for Chinese workers it wanted to bring to Guyana until visas are issued.
The Chinese company has built up a heavy presence in Guyana, but several of its promised multimillion-dollar projects have stalled as the company is facing financial problems. It owes the Government and local companies millions of dollars for properties it has acquired.
Government last year halted logging exports for a number of Baishanlin’s operations.
The company had brought in several Chinese workers to work on one of its projects, a US$70M wood processing plant in Region 10. That plant, like so many others of its projects, is stalled.
According to the embassy correspondence to the former minister, in October 2013, the embassy in China granted Baishanlin over 20 visas.
The company requested five more shortly after.
But the embassy appeared to be irritated. The email to the former minister made it clear that Baishanlin was warned several times, verbally and in writing, that it must not book air tickets for Chinese workers unless the visas are ready – this normally takes 10-15 working days.
The minister was told that Baishanlin was suspected of human trafficking and this had even been conveyed to former Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee.
In 2013 alone, up to October, Baishanlin had applied for 290 visas.
It appears from the emails that the Rohee-led Ministry of Home Affairs had approved a huge batch of visas.
The embassy complained that Baishanlin failed to provide details whether persons issued business visas to come to Guyana ever returned to China.
The activities of Baishanlin appeared to have also come under the radar of both the British and the German immigration authorities. They alerted the Guyana Embassy in China to their “suspicions that Baishanlin is engaged in people-trafficking”.
The correspondence claimed that Baishanlin even offered ‘gifts’ to the staffers of the embassy, but were rebuffed. The attempted bribery was reported to the Ambassador, Professor David Dabydeen.
Baishanlin’s Chief Executive Officer, even turned up the embassy and asked for the aforementioned five additional to be issued.
According to the correspondence to the minister, the company official threatened to call former President Donald Ramotar to complain.
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