The continued closure of the Bartica office of the Guyana Gold Board is affecting miners who normally sell their gold there and they are now subject to the varying prices offered by other gold dealers, President of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association Patrick Harding says.
“We are hoping that the Bartica audit is completed as soon as possible” and the office reopened to serve miners, he told Stabroek News. A full forensic audit has been ordered into the operations of the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) as police continue a probe of a fraud at the operation that reportedly could involve the loss of tens of millions of dollars. “The Guyana Gold Board has engaged the services of an external auditor to perform a full forensic audit of the activities of the GGB at its locations to assist with the current investigation by the Guyana Police Force,” the Board said in a statement recently.
Harding said that as far as he is aware, the audit is not yet complete. He noted that the continuing closure of the Bartica office is affecting miners as the office would post the daily price of gold so that miners would know what the price on the world market was and they would also sell their gold for that price.
However, this is not the case now, Harding said. He stated that miners are now subject to the prices offered by buyers who do not necessarily let their buying rates be publicly known or if it matches the world price. This places miners at a disadvantage, Harding said even as he noted that they hope that the audit is completed soon and the office reopened.
Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Persaud did not immediately respond to questions from Stabroek News.
Last month, the GGB shuttered its Bartica sub-office and called in the police to probe allegations of tampering during the purchase of gold. Several persons were arrested. The office handles millions of dollars in gold transactions. A statement from the Board had said that Directors called on the police to probe an issue of gold being tampered with during the purchasing process and to facilitate the investigation, all operations at the Bartica Sub-Office have been closed temporarily.
“The Guyana Police Force is currently questioning several persons including the employees of both the Bartica sub-office and the main office in Georgetown,” the statement had said.
A source told Stabroek News that the scheme involved the purity of the gold being assessed at more than what it actually was. The gold was mixed, the source said. According to the source, it would be difficult to ascertain how much was lost and the fraud could be in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars since it has been ongoing for a while.
A subsequent statement from the board said that “All gold purchased by the Guyana Gold Board are first stored under the strictest security systems where it is impossible to allow for any tampering.”
“It must be emphasized that all gold purchased by the GGB are tested to ensure a definitive level of purity before any intermediation is undertaken,” the statement added.
The Gold Board has had similar and other issues around it in previous years.