As questions continue to be raised over the discovery of trucks with illegal logs that is linked to disgraced BaiShanLin group, there are indications that investigators have stumbled on hurdles.
The Chinese-owned group reportedly had almost 20 companies registered in Guyana, at the height of its logging operations, prior to 2015, under the previous administration of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic.
Under those companies were hidden assets, some of which were never located.
From logging, real estate and shipbuilding, BaiShanLin used its clout to also enter the river transportation business and even gold mining.
The company was so convincing that it managed to get China Development Bank to lend it almost US$70M. At least one local financial institution also almost went into a hole after it lent over a $1B for a housing project, involving luxury homes, at Providence, East Bank Demerara.
One by one, the initiatives of BaiShanLin fell apart.
The alleged wrongdoings for a company, that reportedly was owned partially by the Chinese government, involved burning down patches of forest in the Berbice area and the failure to build a wood processing plant on the Linden highway.
The company also was granted hundreds of millions of dollars in duty free concessions and other tax waivers.
Some of the duty free concessions involved bringing in containers of materials which were shockingly, illegally sold to local consumers and hardware depots.
Throughout it all, there appeared to be little monitoring of the activities, by the previous administration, despite the number of businesses including forestry operators complaining of the unfair competition by BaiShanLin and its concessions.
More than a year ago, the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC), under new management, and board headed by Chairperson, Jocelyn Dow, confiscated the forest concessions of BaiShanLin.
It, effectively, was supposed to end BaiShanLin’s operations in Guyana.
However, there are indications that though BaiShanLin ceased to officially conduct forestry business, the use of its assets— equipment and trucks included— never stopped.
Those equipment were supposed to be under the custody of GRA, pending the payment of taxes.
In fact, more than a month ago, GFC officials seized a truck with Wamara logs. It was said to be a truck that once belonged to BaiShanLin.
A breach of this nature automatically attracts seizures and heavy fines.
GFC and the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) are highly interested in this development.
There are a few reasons. Both are owed almost $2B- for GFC it is $80M.
GRA has first claim on the assets from the former companies of BaiShanLin. The authority is claiming more than $1.8B in back taxes and duties.
It is believed that some assets of what were once the companies of BaiShanLin, are now being used in the gold mines that are under operations.
“BaiShanLin” former country head, Chu Hongbo, at the height of investigations and media scrutiny against his companies, was granted Guyanese citizenship by the previous PPP/C administration.
Chu Hongbo also managed to buy up a number of gold mining blocks.
There would be questions about the presence of those equipment as it is a no-no for unauthorized vehicles to be working in restricted areas. The Guyana Geology and Mines Commission has to know.
With regards to the forestry sector, GFC has to authorize any vehicles that are in forestry concessions.
That is why investigators at GFC want to know how a truck, linked to the former companies of BaiShanLin, managed to make its way into the Waico area, Upper Berbice River, a few weeks ago, to collect illegal logs.
Kaieteur News understands that GRA has placed tougher systems to ensure that equipment and vehicles brought to Guyana under duty free concessions and other waivers have to be registered with easy access by authorities to ensure that they are being used for the purpose of what they have been brought in for.
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