Nov 20, 2016 News
By Kiana Wilburg
The outstanding US$5M to be paid on the sale of Government’s shares in GTT to a Chinese
company remains an unsolved mystery.
However, the Alliance For Change (AFC), Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, says it will not become another cold case. The First Vice President said on Friday, at a press conference, that he will push for the issue to be resolved.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, had reportedly received some revealing documents on the outstanding sum from Hong Kong Golden Telecom Company (HKGT), the company that bought Government’s shares in GTT.
Nagamootoo was then asked if he has seen those documents at the level of Cabinet. The Prime Minister said, “I cannot say that I have seen the document.”
Nagamootoo explained that at the level of Cabinet where he chairs the business section, protocol dictates that when he would receive a memorandum which would have attachments.
He said that the issue of the Harmon documents comes up as a report and not as a memorandum.
“I would have to pursue this with Harmon to have a look at the documents and what they reveal. This is a mystery issue and a phantom financial issue that we encountered.”
Channeling his inner journalist, the Prime Minister told the media that he did his own inquiries into the matter. He was able to discover that the original procurers of the GTT shares had offered US$30m. He noted that the company subsequently sold its shares to Datang.
“Then we heard all the shenanigans about whether they (Datang) should be given a silver or golden voting rights on the GTT board and if they didn’t then they wouldn’t pay the US$5M,” The Prime Minister said.
He added, “If there was a variation to the contract then we should have seen the contract. But we have not seen the contract that says US$5M of the US$30M was contingent to whether or not the Datang group would have majority share or voting rights…That is where I said there is a mystery surrounding the outstanding sum and it is still a phantom sum.”
The controversial State company, National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), tasked with ascertaining the truth of the matter, does not seem to be making any significant headway.
Some weeks ago, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, who is also a NICIL board member, was asked whether the media would be able to see those documents he got from his trip to China and whether they would be made available.
Harmon, said, “That is a matter for NICIL; that my engagement on that matter was on behalf of NICIL and therefore all the documents, some of which I received in that regard, have been handed to NICIL. It is within the responsibility and jurisdiction of NICIL.”
Harmon said that NICIL has a Board, a Chairman and a Secretary and he is “just” a member.
It was in 2012 that NICIL sold the Government’s investment in GTT for US$30M of which the sum of US$25M was received. The balance, US$5M, was to be paid within a period of two years.
But there have been conflicting stories since that initial arrangement.
At one point, the nation was told that Guyana’s former Ambassador to China, David Dabydeen, facilitated a debt write-off to HKGT.
HKGT is a subsidiary of Datang Telecom International Technology (Hong Kong) Company Limited.
Kaieteur News understands that the purchase agreement between the Chinese company and Guyana was framed in such a manner that in the event of any legal issue, Guyana or HKGT would have to petition the United Kingdom courts.
NICIL had said that in an attempt to avoid costly and lengthy adjudication of the matter in the English Courts, it called on the government to encourage HKGT through diplomatic channels, to honour its contractual obligations.
NICIL said that HKGT alleged that following a series of communications with the former Guyana Ambassador to China, HKGT was assured that it was not required to pay the balance of US$5M.
This was because HKGT had not been granted the same minority protection rights enjoyed by NICIL—that is two representatives, instead of one, on the GT&T Board of Directors. HKGT alleged that it was initially promised two seats by the then Government of Guyana.
NICIL said that HKGT also alleged that the decision to waive the US$5M was contained in a side agreement.
NICIL noted that it has not been able to verify HKGT’s claim of waiver and has requested the assistance of the Government of Guyana to verify the validity of HKGT’s assertion and the documents they produced to support same.
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