Oct 28, 2020 News
The fleecing of Guyana series…
Kaieteur News – As with the owners of the Canje Block, the owners of the Kaieteur Block set the stage for secrecy in their acquisition of the license by incorporating in a jurisdiction notorious for financial secrecy. One of the reasons JHI Associates, one of the Canje Block owners, has managed to stay so under the radar is due to its incorporation in the British Virgin Islands, which is a secrecy jurisdiction and tax haven.
The owners of the Kaieteur Block, Ratio Energy Limited (renamed Cataleya Energy) and Ratio Guyana Limited, were incorporated in Gibraltar, another British overseas territory well known and used for facilitating financial secrecy. Kaieteur Block agreement lists both of their registered offices at the same Gibraltar address: Suites 7B & 8B, 50 Town Range.
With 50/50 stakes in the ultra deepwater block, the two companies each sold 25 percent of the Kaieteur Block ownership to ExxonMobil in March 1, 2017. With 50 percent of the block and its operatorship, ExxonMobil then sold 15 percent to Hess in April, 2018.The use of secrecy jurisdictions like Gibraltar is what allowed the companies to keep the details of these transactions under the radar. The Tax Justice Network, a Britain-based activist think-tank which researches international tax and financial regulation, produced the 2020 Financial Secrecy Index which ranked Gibraltar as 30th in the world.
The index measures how well jurisdictions allow the hiding and laundering of money. Gibraltar’s result is especially startling, given that just two years prior, the territory was at 83rd place. The Tax Justice Network found that Gibraltar got the worst score possible for transparency in the areas of public company ownership, public company accounts, and country-by-country reporting. This indicates that the British overseas territory is as secretive as a jurisdiction can possibly be when it comes to these indicators.
According to a 2017 post by Global Witness, Gibraltar has been used before to conceal bribery. The anti-corruption watchdog said that registering companies offshore allows their holders to operate “all the while staying in the shadows—a gift to people who want to move dirty money.”
One major example it pointed out is a scandal dating back to 1994, in which a subsidiary of Halliburton paid US$132 million to an anonymous Gibraltar-based company to be used, in part, for bribes for high-ranking Nigerian officials in exchange for a lucrative contract to build a liquefied natural gas plant.
The Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), another anti-corruption advocate, says that the use of systems which obscure the true beneficiaries of a company is a warning sign. This tends to occur, it said, in cases where a politically exposed person may be benefitting.
The Kaieteur block was awarded by former President Donald Ramotar, with the advice of Robert Persaud, the then Minister of Natural Resources. Persaud claims his advice was based on reports prepared by the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), lead by Commissioner Newell Dennission.
More to come tomorrow…
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