The 70 gold bars which were stolen from a Guyanese boat in Curacao one week ago did not originate from here as there is no paperwork to suggest it left these shores, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud says.
There has been speculation that raw gold was smuggled from Guyana across the border to Suriname and loaded into the “Summer Bliss,” which was later attacked by armed gunmen shortly after mooring at a port in Curacao.
“…We are awaiting some more information andas I said a team will be in Curacao meeting with the relevant persons,” Persaud told this newspaper yesterday when asked if he knew where the gold came from.
“I was told that the gold did not originate from Guyana,” he further said, adding that the paperwork that the Curacao authorities have “did not show that it (the gold) left Guyana.”
He said that at the moment the team is doing some preliminary work before pointing out that he could not release any more information.
Industry observers say that while the shipment may have left from Suriname it is more than likely that much of the gold is Guyanese in origin having been smuggled across the Corentyne River or by boat to a Surinamese port. The gold would likely have been a combination of gold declared in Suriname, which has a lower royalty rate than Guyana, and gold not declared at all. The observers say that paperwork proving that the shipment did not originate here would not absolve the Guyanese industry from the belief that a large amount of gold from the booming mining sector here has been making its way east to Suriname.
Meanwhile Police Commissioner Leroy Brumell told this newspaper yesterday that he is not in receipt of any more information regarding the case.
Brumell earlier this week had confirmed that the vessel is from Guyana as is its owner. He told this newspaper in a brief interview that they are investigating this information.
Stabroek News was unable to make contact with Curacao’s police spokesperson Reggie Huggins despite several efforts. When this newspaper spoke to him earlier this week he was tight-lipped and said that to divulge information could compromise the investigation.
According to a security source, from all indications local authorities know the identities of those behind the Curacao gold but are making little effort to investigate them. Stabroek News was told that gold smuggling is a business that has been going on for years and had it not been for the heist its extent probably would not have been exposed.
The source said that based on the amount of gold involved it would appear that the gold was smuggled to Suriname in parts over a period of time before being made into gold bars.
The “Summer Bliss” arrived in Curacao at 4 am last Friday and was attacked shortly after mooring. According to police reports, the robbers went to the port area in three different cars and guards let them inside the restricted area in the mistaken belief that they were customs officials. The men’s jackets had the word “police” in English but in Curacao the word would be written in Papiamento, one of the island’s three official languages, as “polis.”
News agency Amigoe reported that six men, carrying guns and wearing masks and hoodies along with the police jackets stormed the ship. At gunpoint, they pushed the 51-year-old captain as well as the three Guyanese crewmen onto the ground.
The perpetrators apparently knew their way around the ship and walked directly to the three metal boxes with the gold bars which had a total weight of 476 lbs and they reportedly took only five minutes to remove them.
Curacao police have said that the gold shipment was legitimate as the required documentation and clearance for that territory were filled out.
Based on Stabroek News’ investigations, there is no record of the registration of the vessel, ‘Summer Bliss,’ with the Guyana Maritime Administration Department (MARAD). Local officials, a senior police force source has said, believe that the name of the vessel is not a legitimately registered one and that the vessel’s name was changed for its smuggling purposes.
This newspaper was reliably informed that many vessels do not register with MARAD because they are stolen from other countries, especially Brazil and Venezuela, sold here at a fraction of their cost and repainted and disguised before being taken onto the seas again.
Sources say that suspicion has fallen on three companies here which have been known to smuggle gold via Suriname but it is unclear if officials from those companies were questioned by local police. With the gold in bars, sources say the operation points to bigger players in the industry.