Late January, Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, made it clear that disgraced Chinese investor, BaiShanLin, was not operating in Guyana.
Asked about BaiShanLin, the Minister said, “We are not aware that BaiShanLin has any operations ongoing.”
However, there is evidence that the Chinese company is alive and well and operating despite its forest concessions having been taken away more than a year ago.
According to officials, about three weeks ago, employers of the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) stopped trucks that had the company’s logo.
They found Wamara logs on the trucks. Checks reportedly found some discrepancies in the paperwork. The tags on the logs reportedly came from the Kwakwani Natural Resource Organisation (KNRO) but the logs were later traced to a concession that used to be controlled by the Chinese company.
The matter was reported to GFC headquarters and the regulator has since launched a probe.
GFC as the regulator would want to know how KNRO’s tags ended on logs that came from a forest concession in another concession. The name of the area in the Upper Berbice River area was given as “Waico”.
Under tough forestry regulations, that is a clear no-no, with stiff fines and other penalties automatically applied. These will add up to millions of dollars.
If it is found that KNRO knowingly allowed BaiShanLin to operate in another concession with its tags, which allows GFC to trace to the exact tree stump, the organisation could also be in deep trouble.
According to officials, local sawmillers and loggers have been complaining of Wamara flooding the market in the last few months-almost 3,000 cubic meters since December.
If the charges are proven, BaiShanLin could be in deep, deep trouble and there would be questions about the monitoring of authorities. There are checkpoints along the Linden/Kwakwani route, Region Ten.
The company was granted hundreds of millions of dollars in duty free concessions for vehicles and equipment for its forestry operations.
After those forestry concessions were seized, there were assurances that BaiShanLin would be monitored to ensure it does not use those trucks and equipment to unfairly compete in other sectors.
In fact, the Guyana Revenue Authority had stepped in. It is unclear that BaiShanLin did. However, it appeared that the company remained in possession.
BaiShanLin has since entered gold mining, river transportation and even sand trucking at the Timehri airport.
BaiShanLin reportedly breached several regulations, abused its tax concessions and received lands and properties on lucrative terms during its decade long operations.
However, it failed to build a wood processing facility and ended up owing locals banks hundreds of millions of dollars for a huge, failed venture into the housing arena, at Providence, East Bank Demerara.
China Development Bank (CDB), which had loaned BaiShanLin about US$70M, had asked Guyana not to give out lands once held by BaiShanLin.
The total size of the concession lands held by BaiShanLin amounted to 680,000 hectares, including joint ventures. The five joint ventures that BaiShanLin had illegally entered into with local companies were also revoked and the lands seized. Some of the lands were in Berbice and in Region One.
Last year, Trotman said that the government was left with little choice than to act sternly with BaiShanLin since in addition to the national outcry over some of the company’s practices; it had also racked up debts for which it could not pay.
“We could not allow a company to remain active in a forest and not be paying royalties and fees for the concessions.”
In January, Trotman said that the lands seized from BaiShanLin still have not been given out, “but BaiShanLin has ceased operations in Guyana.”
Asked if the company has any intention to return to Guyana and resume operations, Trotman said, “I can’t speak for them and their future plans.”
The BaiShanLin scandal had embarrassed the previous administration over the billions of dollars in tax concessions and seemingly little evidence of monitoring of the Chinese company which even appeared to have been selling some of its building materials which it had imported by container loads, and had been granted under tax concessions.
BaiShanLin was partly owned by the Chinese government with its local principal, Chu Hongbo, now a Guyanese citizen. He acquired citizenship under the previous administration about four years ago when the company was under investigations for its activities.
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