By Kiana Wilburg
A government can obtain revenue from its country’s oil sector using several elements. One of these is a signature bonus. As the name implies, operators provide the State with a one-time payment for the privilege of being granted a licence to explore its territory for oil.
Many countries across the world employ this mechanism. In Brazil, the government was able to get US$2.4B from companies that wanted to explore its waters for oil. The same goes for CARICOM member, Trinidad and Tobago, which was able to get a US$100M signing bonus from interested operators.
But when former President, Donald Ramotar, signed away Guyana’s Canje and Kaieteur Blocks to three inexperienced oil companies days before the 2015 General and Regional Elections, no signing bonus was secured.
Reflecting on the issue, Oil Consultant and former adviser to President Granger, Dr. Jan Mangal said that Guyana likely forfeited US$100’s millions or even a billion dollars in signing bonuses for the blocks. He noted that these blocks are adjacent to the Stabroek Block which is operated by ExxonMobil and is now
known to hold over 5.5B of oil equivalent resources.
During an exclusive interview with Kaieteur News last night, the transparency advocate said he has observed the statements made by Ramotar and Canje Block operators Mid-Atlantic and JHI Associates Inc. to the effect that the negotiations for the block were in the pipeline since 2013 and that the process was above board.
But Mangal stressed that the dates in 2015, be it March, April or May, as well those of any prior negotiations or application processes, are not critical to the issue.
He said, “The way these companies work is that they know years in advance. Exxon did not appear in Guyana overnight… They were planning to drill the wildcat well in Guyana for years before 2015.
“Ratio, Mid-Atlantic, JHI Associates Inc . and others which were either informed indirectly by Exxon or otherwise, would have known about Exxon’s plans.”
Dr. Mangal said that officials in the Government at the time would have known years in advance and they themselves could have prompted or encouraged the creation of these non-entities who were given the Kaieteur and Canje blocks. This is how it works around the world he said.
The Consultant asserted that when people find out that a large legitimate company like Exxon is planning to drill a well somewhere, these little unknown and irrelevant companies rush to see if they can get in on the act by securing adjacent blocks ahead of any discovery.
And when they manage to get adjacent blocks from the Government for practically nothing, Dr. Mangal said, “You know something very bad has likely happened, and the country was probably robbed by its own officials in cahoots with these non-entities.”
Dr. Mangal stressed that the main point is that these companies have no assets and no experience producing oil, and when a country hires a contractor to develop its oil, it should only hire contractors who are capable and have a track record of doing so.
He said, “The last government hired companies which had nothing and could do nothing. And when the recent press release from Mid-Atlantic/JHI said they have experience, they have zero experience producing oil in deepwater.
“And when they said they can raise capital, that is irrelevant as the government’s role was not to give away our oil for practically nothing to middlemen.”
Dr. Mangal said that the government’s responsibility and obligation to its people was to hire contractors who could do the work. The government failed in this responsibility, and this failure has to be corrected, the consultant categorically stated.
CANJE BLOCK OPERATORS
The company, to which Ramotar signed away the Canje Block was Mid-Atlantic Oil and Gas. Then JHI Associates Inc. farmed in (or bought in) right after. The block was awarded on March 4, 2015 to Mid-Atlantic.
JHI was only registered in Guyana on May 4, and it bought into the block on May 15. It seems JHI was created from nothing as its archived website only started working and listing managers, including John Cullen, on June 10. The general election was on May 11, 2015.
According to documents held by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) Secretariat, JHI was only incorporated on June 17, 2015, in the British Virgin Islands. This nation is under no obligation to provide countries like Guyana with tax information of companies registered there.
And even though Mid-Atlantic Oil and Gas was incorporated here on April 8, 2013, both companies were in one-on-one negotiations with the PPP government for the oil block one month before, that is, March 2013.
This means that the individuals behind the companies were asking for oil blocks without having a company being formed as yet.
What is also significant to note is that the Canje block is the only asset that these two companies have to date. Additionally, JHI and Mid-Atlantic, which participated in Guyana’s EITI reporting process, failed to submit their audited financial statements for review.
JHI also failed to submit information on its beneficial owners. The EITI report lists Kamal
Dookie as the beneficial owner of Mid-Atlantic.
THE KAIETEUR BLOCK
Ramotar awarded the Kaieteur Block to Ratio Energy Limited and Ratio Guyana on April 28, 2015. Both companies are registered at the same offices in Prashad Nagar and Gibraltar, Israel.
Ratio Guyana does not have a website but on the Kaieteur Block’s Production Sharing Agreement (PSA), a Ryan Pereira is signed on as the Company Secretary, Director and General Partner of the company.
It also should be noted that Mr Ryan Pereira is a long time miner in Guyana with no track record in oil. Yet , the last government awarded him (Cataleya Energy) 50% of the block. He recently funded a project in the Rupununi for the Ministry of Natural Resources. He seems to have a close working relationship with past and present Ministry officials.
The Ratio duo’s only asset remains the Kaieteur Block. Not a trace of evidence can be found to prove that it has years of experience in the exploration of oil and gas. (SEE LINK FOR PSA : https://resourcecontracts.org/contract/ocds-591adf-2701587320/view#/pdf)
Ratio Energy, which also calls itself Ratio Petroleum is chaired by Ligad Rotlevy. With the Kaieteur Block in hand in 2015, this Israeli company was able to capture three other blocks. In 2017, it was able to acquire rights in Suriname’s basin, specifically for Block 47. In June 2016, Ratio Petroleum was granted a licence to operate in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Ireland.
In October 2018, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and Ratio entered into a Production Sharing Agreement, for oil exploration in an offshore section of Philippines continental shelf, known as SC 76.
But Ratio does not have a track record of producing any oil in deepwater or anywhere, nor does it have the required assets to do so.
Of its four assets, Guyana’s Kaieteur Block is its largest. (SEE WEBSITE LINK FOR MORE INFORMATION: https://www.ratiopetroleum.com/en/about/ratio-petroleum/)
This newspaper understands that the Kaieteur Block operators did not submit their audited financial statements and documents regarding beneficial ownership for Guyana’s EITI report. The dates of incorporation for the two Kaieteur Block operators were also not provided to EITI. (See link for full report: https://gyeiti.org/wp-content/uploads/FinalGYEITIReport-FY2017.pdf)
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