One day after Government announced that it was seizing the forest concessions of BaiShanLin International
Forest Development Inc. for failing to honor commitments, there is news that the Chinese company has racked up hundreds of millions in debts across the country.
The Chinese company reportedly owes small loggers and others in the Kwakwani area, Region Ten, millions of dollars for some time now.
The situation appears to be the same in other area, including Regions Seven, Eight and Nine.
It seemed that the company knew it had over-extended itself and was in a cash crunch since 2014 when it forked out millions of dollars to buy a prime plot of 100 acres of land, at Providence, East Bank Demerara.
By the time the Providence housing land, 100 acres of it, was purchased from BK International for US$8M that year, a massive nearby mall being built by BaiShanLin that would have showcased Chinese products had stalled, signaling that monies had run out.
BK International claims that BaiShanLin owes US$4M and has taken the logging company to court for its money and the return of the land. But BK had secured the very plot for US$4 million.
At Linden, a US$70M wood processing plant never materialized. Instead, BaiShanLin invested millions of dollars in dredges for gold mining and other activities.
The company also bought up the Cacique Banquet Hall, located behind the Ramada Princess Hotel and Casino, Providence, East Bank Demerara. It still owes Government over $600M for that property which currently houses workers and offices.
According to Government officials yesterday, the company has been under pressure from its creditors to pay its debts for some time now.
To raise cash, BaiShanLin reportedly started selling out the steel that it had imported under its duty free concessions and even use its logging trucks to illegally compete in the transportation sector. Its barges were also competing in the river transportation business.
But for all the hundreds of millions of dollars it owed, the straw that broke the camel’s back was a mere $80M accumulated payment to the Guyana Forestry Commission representing payments for logging related activities.
The Government regulator said it had been trying since April to collect the monies and even to get BaiShanLin to bring in its majority Chinese partner that it had announced earlier this year.
That partner, China Longjiang Forest Industry (Group), did not appear in Guyana to meet GFC. It was supposed to bring billions of dollars in to the country as the major partner in BaiShanLin.
But BaiShanLin’s public track record along appeared to cause China Longjiang Forest Industry (Group) to change its mind.
On Tuesday, the GFC’s Board of Directors recommended that over 600,000 hectares of lands that BaiShanLin controlled be confiscated.
In effect, the repossession of the lands would end all the company’s logging activities in the country. Last year, the David Granger administration, upon assuming office, halted all log exports by the company.
Earlier this year, the Guyana Revenue Authority moved in and seized two vehicles, including a Lexus SUV, from BaiShanLin for unpaid import taxes.
BaiShanLin appeared to been using its contacts in Government to not only questionably buy up forest lands, but also mining concessions.
At the labour level, hundreds of Chinese workers were brought in from China under the guise that they were destined to work on the Linden processing plant.
However, there is no evidence that any of them went back and BaiShanLin is refusing to provide the Guyana Embassy in China with any details.
When that embassy threatened to stop issuing business visas, BaiShanLin reportedly turned to the Clement Rohee-led Ministry of Home Affairs, under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic, and received permission for workers to enter the country through a back door — visas on arrival.
Europe’s immigration authorities warned that BaiShanLin is likely involved in human trafficking and may have had connections with the Chinese underworld.
The company even appeared to have come under the spotlight with Suriname where authorities refused to grant any visas applied for by BaiShanLin.
GFC this year started investigating after it was found that the company allegedly covered up the burning of a huge swath of forest land in Berbice.
BaiShanLin’s chequered history in Guyana would also be a big embarrassment to the Chinese Government which had granted billions of dollars in concessions to the company to help spur its business in Guyana.
Between 2012 and 2015, BaiShanLin benefitted from over $1.8B in local duty free concessions. Throughout it all, it is unclear how much Guyana benefitted from the concessions it granted.
What is known is that tens of millions of US dollars in prime species logs were exported to China with Guyana receiving a mere pittance.
There is no indication that any gold has been officially declared despite the company being actively involved in mining.
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.
In Guyana, BaiShanLin was the third largest holder of state forests behind Barama Company Limited, a Malaysian company, and the Indian-owned Vaitarna Holdings.
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