Jan 08, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – As part of its mandate, the Commercial Registry is calling on companies in Guyana to submit the names of their beneficial owners.
The beneficial owners are the people who ultimately control an asset as well as benefit from its use. The Registry, in an advertisement in yesterday’s paper, asked companies to submit to them a statement of beneficial ownership, identifying the natural person/s who own/s and control/s 25% or more of the company’s shares.
Importantly, the registry stated in their ad that all notices previously published or issued in relation to beneficial ownership, including the notice that had been published in the Official Gazette, had been withdrawn.
The call for companies to submit the names of their beneficial owners comes at a time when there is a large contention over the beneficial owners of the Kaieteur and Canje blocks—two oil blocks that were awarded under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), by former President Donald Ramotar, just before he demitted office in May 2015.
With the Canje Block, one its owners, JHI Associates, is incorporated in the British Virgins Islands (BVI), a place known as a secrecy jurisdiction and tax haven.
This is a major red flag for governments that prioritize transparency and mitigation of corruption risks. It is difficult for authorities to gain information from tax havens like BVI.
The company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Canadian John Cullen, would appear to set the country’s roots in that jurisdiction. Its website was created in June 2015, and has added bits and pieces of information over time. It claims it was formed in 2011 and expanded its core team to support Mid-Atlantic Oil & Gas in 2013 – the year the block was applied for. Mid-Atlantic is the first recipient of the Canje Block and currently retains a 12.5 percent stake.
It is notable that one year before Mid-Atlantic received the block, JHI had completed a “pre-licence farm-in” with Mid-Atlantic in 2014, according to its website.
It is unprecedented that a company can “farm in” to a block even before the block was even legally signed away, since the host government would have to approve such a farm in.
Why this happened could be explained by exploring the multiple linkages between Mid-Atlantic and JHI, as expressed in a series of articles published by Kaieteur News. Mid-Atlantic’s sole shareholder, Edris Kamal Dookie and Cullen have history together as the co-founders of CGX.
They also, along with another member of JHI (Scott Young) are owners of a company called Oyster Oil & Gas. While Guyana knows Dookie is the sole shareholder in Mid-Atlantic, revealing the beneficiaries of JHI will shed much more light on what happened with the Canje block.
It was recently announced that BVI would by 2023, be creating publicly accessible registers of beneficial ownership for companies incorporated there.
By then, Guyana would have the opportunity to know who benefitted from the sale of its Canje block to ExxonMobil and Total.
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