May 31, 2019 News
By Kiana Wilburg
Former President, Donald Ramotar, is on record saying he had no knowledge that ExxonMobil found oil when he signed away two oil blocks to inexperienced firms just days before the May 11, 2015 General and Regional Elections.
But on May 8, 2015, just three days before elections, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) published an advertisement in all the local newspapers saying that oil was found.
The ad said, “In what has been reported as exciting news to have emerged in the local energy sector, an Exx
on exploration well, located some 120 miles offshore Guyana has discovered hydrocarbons…”
On the ad as well, is a picture of Ramotar who was the PPP Presidential Candidate at the time, smiling and shaking hands with staff onboard the drill ship, Deepwater Champion, as it conducted hydrocarbon exploration in the Stabroek Block.
In light of the disparity between the contents of the advertisement and Ramotar’s statements to the media, which he continues to maintain, officials at the State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA) said they will press on with its probe regarding the award of oil blocks.
During an exclusive interview with Kaieteur News on Wednesday, SARA Special Assistant, Eric Phillips, reminded t
hat Oil Consultant and former Advisor to the President, Dr. Jan Mangal has been speaking about the suspicious award of the oil blocks for some time.
Dr. Mangal had told Kaieteur News that the award of the Kaieteur and Canje blocks by the Donald Ramotar administration just days before the 2015 elections were held, amounts to daylight robbery.
The former Petroleum Advisor to the Government had said, “The issue with the Kaiete
ur and Canje is one of possible corruption…No country awards these blocks to completely unknown and unqualified companies like Mid-Atlantic and Ratio.
If one looks at the evidence from Nigeria, Liberia, etc, what happened in Guyana with the Kaieteur and Canje Blocks was daylight robbery.”
Phillips said that it was Dr. Mangal’s comments that prompted the probe.
The official said, “Dr. Mangal has been a persistent complainer on this matter. He has written and spoken on this matter extensively. When we looked at it and the fact that the State probably lost these blocks without value, we realized that it is probably the largest case we could have…If they were unlawfully given out, you are talking about billions of dollars per block.”
The SARA official said that the entity has been quietly doing a lot of research and creating a timeline for everything that has taken place. He said that SARA is asking several questions on the matter.
These include: When were Ratio and Mid-Atlantic created? Who are the beneficial owners before the award of the licenses and now? Do they have any capability in the oil sector? Under what circumstances did they get the blocks in 2015? What did they do with the blocks when they got it?
Phillips said, “You have to understand that these blocks are in strategic places. They are right next to Exxon’s Stabroek block. To date, the block holds 13 successful discoveries…But what is interes
ting to me is that Canje and Kaieteur are in deeper water.
“So if these blocks are in deeper water, how could two companies which have no experience in the sector be granted them? The big question is why? There are very few operators which can do deep water exploration and Ratio and Mid-Atlantic are not in that elite club…”
The SARA official added, “Then we have to look at who are the people who made the decision…Ramotar says he didn’t know oil was found but the ad they put in the papers on May 8, 201 5 indicates oth
erwise. The party could only put together such an ad if it had inside information. Exxon did not make any announcement about its discovery until May 20, 2015.”
Further to this, there have been questions regarding SARA’s failure to haul in the companies for questioning up to this point. But Phillips said there is a lot which must be looked at before contact can be made with ExxonMobil for example, which has a working interest in both Canje and Kaieteur.
In addition to this, Phillips said that SARA wants to interview former Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, Robert Persaud, who reportedly advised Ramotar on the matter in 2015. Phillips wants to ascertain why no signing bonus was negotiated for the two blocks.
Phillips said that SARA would be looking into all the correspondence leading to this entire arrangement.
PPP General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo, made reference to SARA’s investigation yesterday at his weekly press conference. The former President said he has no issue with the probe. He believes, however, that it should be handled by another body, one that in his view is more independent.
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