Jun 02, 2019 News
By Kiana Wilburg
The State Asset Recovery Agency (SARA) intends to leave no stone unturned when it comes to its probe of the oil blocks awarded to two inexperienced firms by former President, Donald Ramotar just days before the 2015 General and Regional Elections.
In fact, the transparency body said it will be looking into all viable ways to rescind the Canje and Kaieteur blocks following the determination of corruption.
This was noted by SARA’s Special Assistant, Eric Phillips.
The official said, “We have to look at everything. We want to ensure we understand what happened, meet with the stakeholders involved, and if there were unlawful things at play, we have to figure out how we get them (the Canje and Kaieteur blocks) back.”
Phillips added, “We know one of them had an IPO (an Initial Public Offering where shares of a company are sold to investors). A year later that rose to US$40M. So we have been quietly gathering information, speaking with Oil Consultant, Dr. Jan Mangal, and doing our own scanning…”
Just recently, Dr. Mangal took to his Facebook page to comment on the topical issue. The official reminded that he has been pursuing this matter since 2017.
He said, “I recall telling ExxonMobil in one of my meetings with them that I believed they used Mid-Atlantic, Ratio, etc, as their proxies, to do their dirty work for them.”
The Oil Consultant believes that that there is already sufficient evidence in the public domain for President David Granger to rescind the Kaieteur and Canje awards. He said, however, that going after officials is not the objective.
The former Advisor to President Granger said that the objective is purely to earn Guyana the hundreds of millions and potentially billions of US dollars that were lost by these two awards.
Dr. Mangal said that the blocks need to be taken back, split up into smaller blocks, and auctioned off properly.
He added, “And all those who have had interests in these blocks must be banned from participating in any way in these blocks for the next 10 years (including ExxonMobil, Hess, etc).”
Former President, Donald Ramotar, is on record saying he had no knowledge that ExxonMobil found oil when he signed away the Canje and Kaieteur 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, “BREAKING NEWS!!! US OIL GIANT EXXON STRIKES OIL IN GUYANA…”
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.
SARA Special Assistant, Eric Phillips, 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 interesting 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, 2015 indicates otherwise.
“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.
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