By Kiana Wilburg
The National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) will be pursuing the route of arbitration in the United Kingdom in hopes of recovering the outstanding US$5M from the sale of Government’s shares in GTT.
This is according to Officer in Charge at NICIL, Horace James. He made this declaration yesterday during the entity’s end of year press conference held at NICIL’s boardroom.
The NICIL officer was adamant that the US$5M was not written off as was previously claimed. He insists it is still owed to NICIL.
James said, “We are in the process of executing all the relief measures that are in the sales agreement in order for us to get it back. We have engaged our lawyers in the USA.”
He continued, “And we are using the lawyer who was involved in the sales agreement process and who helped us to draft the agreement. They recommended a company in the United Kingdom to help us in the arbitration whenever that time comes and when we are going there.”
The NICIL officer added, “It is important that we use a UK company because the arbitration will be held in London.”
James said that NICIL is not only going after the recovery of the US$5M, but also interest costs, legal fees, the signatory for the agreement and even the person who guaranteed it.
He continued, “So that process has started and our lawyers have presented all the issues concerning the shares and said that it is a very good chance that we could get back the money.”
James was reminded that Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, who is also a NICIL director had brought back some documents from his infamous China trip which he received from Hong Kong Golden Telecom Company (HKGT), the company that bought Government’s shares in GTT.
In this regard, he confirmed that Harmon indeed submitted such documents.
He said, “The documents basically said that the purchasers of the shares indicated that they had a discussion with David Dabydeen and were under the impression that they were relieved from paying it. But that is not so.
“NICIL sold you something and so you owe us. You made an initial payment and so the second payment has to be made. That is our major contention.”
James declined to share the document submitted by Harmon , stating that it might be used as part of the arbitration proceedings. He does not want to make any move that would jeopardize the process.
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 GTT 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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