Barama Company Limited (BCL) announced yesterday that it will pay the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) $96.4 million fine for a number of breaches related to under declaration and falsifying documentation of product origin committed in third party concessions.
“BCL has agreed in good faith, without prejudice and without admission of liability, to pay a total amicable settlement of approximately $96.4 million (ap-proximately US$470,000).
The decision to make immediate payment follows numerous discussions with the Government of Guyana,” the company said in a press release issued yesterday.
BCL said it had cooperated fully with the GFC’s investigation and in certain areas, there were some breaches by several low-level staffers harvesting in areas where permits were still being processed.
“The company takes the allegations very seriously and is committed to engage with the GFC to a comprehensive review of the timber operation procedures and improve the processes going forward. I want to revamp the whole system and work positively with the government to further develop and contribute to this industry and country,” Peter Ho, the new Chief Executive Officer at BCL, said in the statement.
The company said five operations personnel were suspended until further investigation.
“The company does not rule out further suspension after the internal audit which is currently in progress,” the release said.
The release said the company also intends to work with the GFC to resolve any other outstanding matter currently under investigation.
BCL was on October 22 slapped with $96.4 million in fines, for breaches in three third-party concessions.
The GFC dismissed two field officers resident at the locations for ineffective monitoring and all three sub-contractual operations with the three companies holding the concessions have been suspended.
On September 25, Minis-ter of Agriculture Robert Persaud had announced that the GFC had launched an investigation into suspected cases of under declaration of forest produce harvested, and false declarations about the origin of forest produce harvested.
This announcement followed on the heels of a revelation in July that the GFC had discovered that there were procedural breaches with regard to the under declaration of forest produce harvested and false declarations with respect to the origins of forest produce involving A Mazaharally and Sons Limited, Barakat Timbers and Trading Company Limited, Barama and N. Sukul and Sons.
According to a GFC press release, investigations in September found that in July Barama transported a quantity of logs harvested from ESS 10/92, issued to Barakat Timbers Limited, to Buck Hall while the quantity of logs it declared to the GFC in July was below the harvested amount. Additionally, the findings show that Barama harvested and removed, without the GFC’s permission, a large quantity of logs from the concession 2/90 issued to Mazaharally. Also, the tags issued to Barama and Barakat were used on stumps located within the concession issued to Mazaharally.
GFC had said in a release that Barama was found to have removed a quantity of logs from WCL 05/93, issued to N. Sukul, without approval from the GFC. This, the GFC said, was evidence of unauthorized harvesting and extraction of forest produce. Plus, the GFC found that the harvesting operations on the ground were conducted in a manner that had serious negative environmental implications. The GFC said these findings were made after a detailed analysis of records was done, including a comparison of the documentation supplied to the GFC by the companies with the internal records of the companies.
The investigation and the fines come after a months-long campaign by civil society activists and members of the timber industry over various issues such as illegal subletting and the export of logs.