Chartered Accountant, Anand Goolsarran, is of the firm view that the $10B scandal involving oil and gas exploration off the coast of Senegal, West Africa, is quite reminiscent of the 2015 oil blocks fiasco that former President Donald Ramotar is embroiled in.
In his recent writings Goolsarran recalled, in detail, the $10B scandal in Senegal.
The transparency advocate noted that it was in 2011 that the Senegalese government granted two exploration concessions covering 6,700 square miles to an unknown company with no record of off-shore drilling.
The agreement was entered into on December 8, 2011, but the company, Petro-Tim Ltd., was not formed until six weeks later. Goolsarran said that the company’s headquarters in the UK could also not be traced as the address stated in the agreement contained apartment block buildings.
The Chartered Accountant noted that Petro-Tim is owned by a Romanian businessman, Frank Timis, who has a chequered past, having been convicted in the 1990s for trafficking in heroin. Goolsarran pointed out that Timis is also alleged to enjoy a close relationship with Mr. Aliou Sall, the brother of the Senegalese President, Macky Sall who, in his election bid, promised to deal condignly with corruption in Senegal.
On assuming office, the President ordered an investigation into the granting of the two concessions to Petro-Tim. The investigation recommended that the concessions be taken back, but the President took no action in this regard.
During the period 2012 to 2017, it was found that the companies linked to Mr. Timis are alleged to have paid the President’s brother a monthly
consulting fee of US$25,000 as country manager, with a promise of us$3 million worth of shares, should Petro-Tim be allowed to keep the concessions.
Goolsarran noted that this was despite the fact that Mr. Aliou Sall has no training or experience in oil and gas matters. Additionally, an amount of US$250,000 purportedly representing the payment of taxes to the Senegalese government by Timis’s off-shore trust, was instead paid into the bank account of a company owned by Mr. Aliou Sall.
Further to this, Goolsarran reminded that Mr. Timis did not have the wherewithal to undertake the exploration work on the two concessions. The Chartered Accountant said it was therefore not surprising that in 2014, an American oil company, Kosmos Energy, agreed to finance the exploration and to provide funds to Mr. Timis to help him develop the blocks.
Goolsarran noted that the exploration resulted in the discovery of a major oil field. In April 2017, the UK oil giant British Petroleum (BP) bought out Timis’s interest in the concessions for US$250 million with an agreement to pay Timis between US$10 billion and US$12 billion in royalties over a 40-year period.
BP is also aware of the relationship between Mr. Aliou Sall and the President.
Considering the details of the aforementioned case, Goolsarran categorically stated that the BP scandal is reminiscent of what took place in Guyana just days before the May 2015 national and regional elections.
The former Auditor General noted that like the Senegalese government, the PPP Administration granted exploration licences to four unknown companies – JHI Associates Inc., Mid-Atlantic Oil and Gas Inc. (MOGI), Ratio Energy Ltd. and Ratio Guyana Ltd. – in the Kaieteur and Canje blocks covering 4.8 million acres.
These blocks are adjacent to ExxonMobil’s 6.6 million acres Stabroek block that contain more than 5.5 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil.
Goolsarran noted that JHI was incorporated in June 2015 in the British Virgin Islands, a known tax and potential money-laundering haven. This meant that the company was not in existence at the time when the licence was granted to it.
He also pointed out that Ratio Energy Ltd. and Ratio Guyana Ltd. were incorporated in April 2015 in Gibraltar, also a known tax and money-laundering haven while MOGI was incorporated in April 2013.
From all indications, Goolsarran stressed that these companies are small and do not have the technical and financial capacity to carry out exploration activities. Citing the Guyana EITI report for 2017, Goolsarran highlighted that only MOGI and Ratio Guyana Ltd participated in the EITI process but did not submit audited financial statements, and only MOGI submitted information on beneficial ownership.
The Report also indicated that EEPGL, one of Exxon’s three subsidiaries, awarded the concessions in the Stabroek Block, has 35 percent and 50 percent equity interest in the Canje and Kaieteur blocks respectively. He noted that the State Assets Recovery Agency (SARA) has launched an investigation into the granting of exploration licences to these four companies.
The Government has since said that it will support SARA’s findings once it is based on irrefutable evidence.
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