Apr 05, 2017 News
-Official ignored complaints
-Bank account frozen
-GBTI manager arrested
Complaints to the police about alleged money laundering activities of an embattled gold dealer were made to a senior Natural Resources Ministry official a few months ago, but no action was taken.
A complaint then made to the Commissioner of Police is now the subject of investigations, with a number of persons expected to be questioned as early as today.
At the centre of the probe is gold dealer, Saddiqi ‘Bobby’ Rasul, who this week was slapped with several charges relating to an alleged $956M fraud at the Guyana Bank For Trade and Industry (GBTI). He was placed on $3M bail.
Rasul is now also being investigated by police for alleged money laundering. Investigators will be looking to see how deep his connections with the State-run Guyana Gold Board (GGB) went, and how much he benefitted from possible collusion there.
The police, according to officials, were handed a significant number of documents by a whistleblower to back up the complaint of alleged wrongdoing involving GGB staffers and Rasul.
In one correspondence to the police seen by Kaieteur News, the whistleblower alleged that the current manager of GGB’s branch at Bartica, Region Seven, reportedly received calls from a senior official from GGB’s Brickdam head office, instructing him to pay the highest of rates of the daily fixings.
Recordings of those instructions were handed over to a senior ministry official. However, no action was taken according to a complaint sent to police by the whistleblower.
It was made clear that persons within the industry knew what was happening but kept quiet as the name of a high-ranking government official was used as protection.
Staffers of GGB were threatened with sacking if they talked.
The whistleblower also said that GGB should not be involved in gold buying and should instead only be involved in the regulatory aspect of the mining business.
Rasul is in deep trouble with his businesses. Not only have his accounts at Citizens Bank and GBTI been closed, but Republic Bank has this week reportedly frozen almost $40M that he has there, on the instructions of investigators.
Without any bank accounts, gold dealing is virtually impossible, especially with tough anti-money laundering laws in place.
A number of his staffers have been questioned and cash seized from his Charity, Essequibo office.
His homes in Prashad Nagar and Bartica and office in Kitty were raided by investigators.
Rasul, owner of SSS Mineral, a company licensed to buy gold; and R. Mining, which is his mining outfit, made the news last week after an alleged $956M fraud was discovered at GBTI.
A female manager of the bank was sent home and Rasul arrested last Friday after GBTI filed a police complaint. The businessman was slapped with six charges of obtaining money by false pretence. He could face more.
One of the biggest gold dealers in Guyana, he appeared in court Monday and was placed on $3M bail having been slapped with six counts of fraud — $500,000 on each count.
Yesterday, the bank manager of the Bartica branch of GBTI who had been sent home pending investigations, was arrested at the police headquarters, Eve Leary ,where she had gone with a lawyer.
The police had announced intentions to issue a wanted bulletin for her.
It was alleged that the gold dealer had no credit facilities at any bank, but started purchasing gold, purportedly from miners, in large quantities in 2014, sometimes even paying more than $10,000 above other dealers for one ounce of the precious material. This caused raised eyebrows by others in the trade.
Brazilian miners were apparently targeted for the gold.
Officials said that it was explained that the scam occurred when instead of using his gold dealing company, Rasul bought the gold through SSS Minerals, but allegedly sold the gold to the Gold Board via his mining company. This was deliberately passed as mined gold. Almost $300M in taxes were lost.
Sometimes the transactions occurred multiple times daily via R. Mining, according to documents seen by Kaieteur News.
According to officials, where Rasul allegedly made a killing was when he only paid the five percent royalties that are applicable to mining companies. Gold dealers are made to pay not only the royalties, but also a two percent tax, making it a total of seven percent.
It was pointed out that it is highly unusual for any mining company to have several wash-downs daily, unless they are large scale in nature. There are only two large scale mining companies in Guyana – Troy Resources and Guyana Goldfields. Rasul is not known to be a large-scale miner.
Investigators reportedly had details of banking records to support the money laundering complaint against Rasul.
It was alleged that in two months alone, Rasul’s companies deposited and withdrew $17B. Sometimes there were as many as seven withdrawals in one day.
Why GGB senior officials never picked up the warning signs that something was wrong with the transactions are among some of the questions that investigators will want to know.
It was explained that the Gold Board would, under an established system, lock in prices based on the market prices overseas. This meant that prices could fall or rise within a day.
The complaint alleged that US authorities, like Homeland Security and the FBI, may have had an interest in Rasul as far back as 2014 and early 2015, for gold exported to the country.
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