guyana chronicle February 2, 2016
– Gov’t probes alleged corrupt land deal between Bai Shan Lin and GGMC
By Svetlana Marshall
THE GUYANA Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) was allegedly riddled with corruption under the old regime, with the Chairman and Commissioner reportedly colluding with Bai Shan Lin to secure a plot of land in the Mazaruni Mining District No. 3.
The Guyana Chronicle was reliably informed that a process which usually takes months, and sometimes more than a year, was completed in seven days, much to the satisfaction of the trio.
Reports indicate that, without any hesitation, former Chairman Clinton Williams and former Commissioner Rickford Vieira had allegedly moved to grant the Director of Bai Shan Lin, Hongbo Chu, a Prospecting Licence (PL) to operate in the Mazaruni Mining District. Less than seven days after, Chu reportedly converted the Prospecting Licence to a Mining Permit, paving the way for alluvial mining to be done, but not by him.
Putting the transaction into context, a reliable source explained that, in 2011, GGMC had granted Brian Chase a Prospecting Licence to operate in the area, but despite being notified of the due date, Chase had failed to renew his Prospecting Licence, and in keeping with the laws governing the Commission, the land, which belongs to the State, was reclaimed.
It is not clear when Chu, who is a naturalised citizen of Guyana, developed interest in the mineral rich area, but documents seen by this newspaper revealed that on October 9, 2015, Williams, Vieira and Chu affixed their signatures to a document that paved the way for the latter to acquire the Prospecting Licence. This allowed him to mine gold and precious stones in the area for a period of five years.
Though it appears legitimate from the outside looking in, the source said, the deal, which was signed and sealed in one day, ought to be food for thought.
“This process normally takes months. Sometimes you apply, it takes more than a year, because it is a lengthy process and everyone knows that. GGMC is inefficient, they don’t deliver to the regular people; and for such a transaction to be signed off in one day, well, that is something strange,” the source posited.
According to the source, to make matters worse, Chu, within seven days, converted the Prospecting Licence to a Mining Permit, before renting the plot of land to Joa Oliviera Nascimento.
“The PL is large-scale, and they can’t do alluvial mining on a PL. In order to do alluvial mining, and to give the gentleman a contract, he converted it in a matter of six days, which is record-breaking. Nobody can get that process done in six days at GGMC. So, (because of) the haste in which it was done, it had to be complete collusion with the Board. The Board would have had to see the process through,” the source explained.
The receipt, which was also seen by this newspaper, indicates that Nascimento was required to pay an initial sum of $5M, and subsequently $2M on a monthly basis. According to the source, Vieira and Williams were paid more than US$166,000 to facilitate this and several other transactions.
“They were best of friends, but they became enemies because of greed. Vieira collected the money but didn’t give Williams the full amount, so that is how the problem started,” the source told this newspaper.
Less than two months after the Prospecting Licence was granted to Chu, Williams, being at the time the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the GGMC, moved a no-confidence motion against Vieira.
On November 28, 2015 the Board, under stewardship of Williams, moved a no-confidence motion against Vieira and several senior functionaries within the Commission. Williams had said that Vieira had failed the Commission in many areas.
Vieira was sent home, but his services were terminated only last month.
But while Williams moved a no-confidence motion against Vieira, the source said, Williams had pleaded with the Government not to have his (Williams) stint cut short.
“Everybody knows why the Chairman was begging for that opportunity; it was because he had already taken (sums of) money from miners for some favours, and this is not the only one, so he had to complete and he did complete.”
According to information reaching this newspaper, the Ministry of Natural Resources has launched an investigation into the matter, to determine whether any laws were breached in the process.