Nov 17, 2016 News
Former President Bharrat Jagdeo has distanced himself from a major contract for new BMW vehicles that was awarded to a newly-registered company in late 2006.
The contract for the supply of those high-end vehicles – 13 sedans and seven Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) – was handed to a company registered on December 6th, 2006 as Prestige Motors Inc.
According to a forensic audit report ordered on the 2007 Cricket World Cup (CWC), a mere three weeks after the company was registered, it was paid $84M, representing half of the money for the supply of the 20 vehicles.
The registration of that company and the timing of the payments were deemed suspicious, and were among several reasons why the current Cabinet ordered the audit report to be handed over to the police for a criminal investigation.
Jagdeo, who was in power during the 2007 Cricket World Cup which was being hosted by the region, oversaw the purchase of the vehicles via his Cabinet.
Yesterday, questioned on how come a company was allowed to register days before being awarded the aforementioned contract, Jagdeo during a press conference at his party’s headquarters, on Robb Street, said he is unaware that the company was registered days before an advance to the tune of millions of dollars was made.
Making a case that it could not have been that Prestige Motors was favoured and working on insider knowledge, the former President insisted that leading up to the contract, his administration had been looking at a number of different proposals in ways the BMWs could have been brought into Guyana.
BMW was a major sponsor for the World Cup and host countries were mandated to purchase a few of the vehicles to move officials around.
He said that BMW had wanted Guyana to buy 78 of the vehicles, but his Government managed to bring this down to 20.
The vehicles that Guyana ended up with were the basic models with none of the fancy bells and whistles. Other host countries went for the higher end vehicles, he said.
According to Jagdeo, Government does not have the authority to set up a BMW dealership…rather, this had to be between BMW and a local company – in this case, it was Prestige Motors.
With regards to the actual spending of the CWC which was never revealed to the public by Jagdeo’s government and his successor, Donald Ramotar, the former president made it clear that information was handed over to Keith Booker, the former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.
Booker has since died, with the forensic audit report making it clear that the current records, which are in poor condition, are not enough for Guyana to ever find out what Jagdeo and his administration actually spent for the hosting of CWC.
The forensic auditor, John Barnes, found that 11 of the BMWs were sold under questionable circumstances by Jagdeo’s administration, months after the cricket matches in Guyana.
One of the SUVs is now missing and police investigators will have the task of finding the vehicle.
According to Jagdeo yesterday, if the police and the administration find corruption and if a vehicle is missing, then the perpetrators have to be charged.
Prestige Motors has as its officials Keith Evelyn of Hand-in-Hand Trust Corporation. The Managing Director is Vishok Persaud, of E-Networks. Persaud is the son of the late Reepu Persaud, who was a former Minister of Agriculture and a senior official of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).
The forensic auditor attempted to track down Prestige Motors, but said that despite several requests to the Deeds Registry, he failed to obtain information on who the other directors were. The company has remained active.
The auditor was able to acquire documents issued by Prestige Motors Inc. to the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, showing that the importation of the vehicles, including dealer, handling and port fees would cost US$817,600 or G$168.8M.
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