Sep 07, 2016 News
In its first major strike to stamp out lawlessness and regain control of the forestry sector, the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) yesterday announced that it is moving to repossess over 600,000 hectares from BaiShanLin International Forest Development Inc., a Chinese logging company that has been under fire for its operations here.
The news of the concession seizures will come as the commission continues to assess the operations of a number of large concession holders to ensure that they are in keeping with regulations and that commitments made in agreements are being honored.
The GFC statement yesterday came hours after Cabinet met and gave it blessings to the commission for actions to be taken against BaiShanLin.
According to GFC, the decision was taken after the cash-strapped BaiShanLin failed to deliver on agreed actions to introduce investors to the commission and failing despite being given time to prove that it had an acceptable plan to clear an approximately $80M debt.
A new Guyana Forestry Commission, headed by experienced furniture manufacturer, Jocelyn Dow, was announced last year by the new David Granger administration with a mandate to bring back confidence into a sector that was struggling to keeps its head above water.
It was announced earlier this year that BaiShanLin’s partner, Long Jiang Forest Industries Group, was set to take over management of the company in Guyana after it became clear that monies had dried up for the company that had over-extended itself in too many sectors.
The announcement came after Minister of State Joseph Harmon had returned from an extended visit to China and meeting with officials of Long Jiang Forest Industries Group.
The company has been heavily pushed by the Chinese government with tax and other concessions granted to it in China.
BaiShanLin was not only involved in logging and export. It had also branched off to gold mining, housing, river transportation, ship building and even property acquisition.
Several of the ventures, including its unfinished luxury homes and a mall, would tell a stark tale of an investment that went all too wrong…all too quickly.
The company was even accused of burning down a large swath of forest up the Berbice River and never reporting it.
It owes the government of Guyana hundreds of millions of dollars for properties it bought, including the Cacique Banquet Hall behind Ramada Princess Casino, in Providence. It was taken to court by BK International, a local contractor for hundreds of millions of dollars owed for housing lands at Providence.
Last year, Government halted log exports for the company after it became clear that a US$70M wood processing facility in Linden was not going to happen. That plant was key to BaiShanLin being granted billions of dollars in duty free concessions from since 2006 when it first appeared on the Guyana scene.
GFC, in explaining its decision to repossess the 618,000 hectares which BaiShanLin has managed to snap up, some under questionable means, made it clear that it has been engaging the company since April 8, 2016 to provide an update on its plans to clear the $80M debts.
“During the meeting, representatives noted that the BIFDI had suffered financial constraints which affected the establishing of the wood processing facility and that the company was engaging a new partner that would contribute significantly to the investment in Guyana.”
GFC said its board was assured of the financial strength of the new partner who had committed to pay off the debt owed by BaiShanLin to GFC.
“The BIFDI was requested to submit information about its operations in Guyana, settle its arrears and submit a letter of commitment from the new partner.”
However, it seemed that even at the 11th hour, BaiShanLin was not willing to, or in position to comply with the orders of the regulators.
“To date, the BIFDI has failed to fulfill any of its commitments to the Government of Guyana; effectively failing on the obligations it made, which were accepted in good faith,” the statement explained.
GFC said that in keeping with Forest Governance Practices, it will be formally repossessing the concessions owned by the company and accelerating efforts to recover the debt owed.
BIFDI was incorporated in September 2006 under the Guyana Companies Act 1991 with the main objective of timber harvesting and establishing downstream wood processing operations in Linden, GFC explained.
BaiShanLin’s presence in Guyana had been an extremely uncomfortable one for especially the last administration of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), under President Donald Ramotar, after it became known that the company was virtually given a blank cheque to carry out operations here.
It was allowed to bring in hundreds of Chinese workers without much attention paid by local authorities to ensure that they returned home after their contract ended.
The situation was so bad that British and German immigration authorities were convinced that BaiShanLin had stretched its tentacles to human trafficking. The company even attempted to bring women in on flights from China but a number of them were detained, with immigration authorities saying they did not fit the profile of being logging workers.
There are indications, too, from correspondence to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that certain officials of the Clement Rohee-led Ministry of Home Affairs may have been bribed to facilitate visas for BaiShanLin.
The Guyana Embassy in China had over time warned BaiShanLin that it was not complying with visa requirements which called for reports to be filed with the embassy when the workers returned to China.
In Guyana, BaiShanLin is the third largest holder of state forests behind Barama Company Limited, a Malaysian company, and the Indian-owned Vaitarna Holdings.
In 2011, it was granted 52,896 hectares up the Berbice River through a company named Haimorakabra Logging Company Inc.
Through a number of questionable transactions called joint ventures, the Chinese logger acquired Puruni Woods- 107,671 hectares; Kwebanna Wood Products Inc.-87,361 hectares; Sherwood Forest Inc.- 167,075 hectares; Woods Association Industries Co Limited- 26,076 hectares and other concessions- all totally over 600,000 hectares.
The concessions are located in Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine and Ten.
Apr 21, 2021Kaieteur News – Pomeroon and E’bo Coast XI will face off today at Jacklow in an U19 limited overs fixture. The game which is being sponsored by Devon Ramnauth is expected to commence at...
Apr 21, 2021
Apr 21, 2021
Apr 21, 2021
Apr 21, 2021
Apr 21, 2021
By Sir Ronald Sanders Kaieteur News – As undesirable as it may be, governments of Caribbean countries that are not... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]