May 07, 2017 News
By Abena Rockcliffe-Campbell
It is true that the public knows little about the operations of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
However the Unit’s Director, Matthew Langevine, is adamant that the lack of public disclosures should not be interpreted to mean that no major work is being done.
Langevine said, yesterday, that the unit is working very hard to execute its mandate. Langevine indicated that the FIU was involved in stopping one of the biggest money laundering/ fraud operations in Guyana. “It was a case of money laundering so of course we played a role.” Langevine was speaking about the case of the embattled gold dealer Saddiqi ‘Bobby’ Rasul. Rasul is being investigated by the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU).
Langevine said that FIU is executing its mandate in submitting reports to SOCU. He specified that the Unit provided a report to SOCU on Rasul but refused to go into details on that.
Langevine told Kaieteur News that the FIU is “in a much better place than it ever was” as it is now functioning with competent staff. He noted that the FIU coordinated the National Risk Assessment exercise the report of which will be handed over to the government shortly.
He said that public missives will be released shortly on the operations of the Unit.
FIU reports dating back to 2015 are yet to be laid. Langevine said that this too will be done shortly. He told this publication that the 2015 report is closer to readiness but the 2016 report which is supposed to be laid in June will most likely be late because the audited statements are still to be collected from the Office of the Auditor General.
Accountant Christopher Ram recently said that the public needs to be made aware of the operations
of the FIU. Kaieteur News had asked Ram whether he feels that the FIU should be playing a greater role. He said that any opinion could only be based on anecdotal evidence as so far no formal report about the operations of the FIU has been laid.
“It would be difficult to conclude whether or not (the FIU) has been performing the functions it has been vested with under the legislation.”
However, Ram noted that Guyana, in terms of money laundering compliance, is now in a better grade and “no doubt the FIU would have had a role to play in the country achieving that milestone.”
Ram said that it would be good if reports can be laid even earlier than the law requires. “But once (they are laid) in the time required would be a good first step. Then the FIU can start producing reports not only on a statuary basis but it can do so more often; maybe quarterly.”
In defending her innocence, the General Manager of the Guyana Gold Board, Lisaveta Ramotar said, “It must be mentioned that Threshold reports are sent monthly to the Financial Intelligence Unit and all of Mr. Rasul’s companies’ transactions are on those reports.”
According to data, between September and November last year, Rasul conducted over $7.6B in transactions with GGB, selling both at the Bartica branch and at the Upper Brickdam office.
Rasul allegedly used a company he owned – R. Mining – to conduct the majority of his business
with GGB. There was a reason for this. Under regulations, mining companies are not required to pay the two percent tax. They are, however, mandated to pay the five percent tax.
In essence, Rasul is alleged to have bought gold through his gold dealing company, SSS Minerals, later passing it through R. Mining to the GGB.
Between September and November, the state reportedly lost an estimated $100M in taxes, because of what the gold dealer allegedly did. Those alleged transactions are said to be money laundering.
Rasul’s activities have drawn the attention of not only SOCU but also the Guyana Revenue Authority.
In recent weeks, a Lexus SUV and Toyota pickup, both bullet-proofed, were seized.
Investigators have also raided the Bartica and city operations of Rasul as well as the premises of his business associates.
Police have also seized several guns and a significant quantity of documents.
Rasul has also been charged with a $950M fraud at the Bartica branch of the Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry. He has been placed on $3M bail.
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