The fraud being probed involving a purported representative of a foreign mining company and Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) staff points to “systemic collusion” and is “very worrisome,” according to a senior official in the sector.
Last week, the GGMC, at the behest of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, called in the Auditor General and the police to probe the fraudulent conversion of funds related to prospecting and mining permits for an overseas mining company. The source declined to name the company for legal reasons but told Stabroek News yesterday that the sum involved amounts to tens of millions of dollars.
The source said that senior GGMC staff was implicated and while manipulation of the system occurred before now, it is being taken “to a new level.” The individual had to collude with senior GGMC staff to perpetrate the fraudulent transaction, the source said, adding that the incident points to very worrisome systemic collusion between GGMC staff and the individuals involved. “It was only picked up by accident,” the source said.
In a statement last week, the GGMC said that it was reported that the overseas mining firm was incorporated as a company in Guyana on November 11, last year, according to the articles of incorporation.
The statement explained that the company engaged the GGMC to conduct business pertaining to Prospecting Permit Medium Scale and Mining Permit on behalf of the company and requested the GGMC Foreign Currency Account Number to facilitate the transfer of the necessary processing fees. It said that once the fees were collected, this allowed for the commencement of the processing of the applications at which time it was observed that a refund was necessary.
“The GGMC facilitated a refund via a cheque in the name of a local company representative, who presented a letter (which did not bear the official company stamp) for the amount to be refunded to the representative, rather than being transferred to the account from which the original sum was received,” the statement said.
It added that the mining company later wrote the GGMC indicating that their representative was no longer authorised to act on behalf of the company and enquired about the status of the refund, while noting that no money was remitted to the company. “Upon investigation, GGMC learnt that the cheque has been encashed and is unable to make contact with the local company representative,” the statement said.
The matter was then brought to the attention of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment and the Board of Directors of the GGMC “who after reviewing the internal audit report immediately sought the intervention of the Auditor General, Audit Office of Guyana who is now handling the investigation.”
The statement said that the Auditor General has enlisted the support of the Guyana Police Force. “The Ministry of Natural Resources is awaiting the Auditor General and the Guyana Police Force findings and recommendations,” it said.