Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has said that his government received no money from Canadian oil company, CGX Energy to assist in the maritime boundary dispute between Guyana and Suriname but rather the company had paid lawyers and lobbyists.
Speaking to reporters last week, Jagdeo said no money was paid over by CGX to the government and there was no signing bonus.
“The situation was very different, at that time, the CGX had a rig offshore (in 2000), (a) Surinamese gun boat came and removed the rig. So CGX was directly involved in the conflict, it was an aggrieved party,” Jagdeo pointed out.
He said in the case of ExxonMobil it is very different since CGX as a publicly traded company had to defend its rights.As such its recruitment of lawyers and lobbyists was important to its own concerns to resume operation; a very different situation from the present one where the APNU+AFC government negotiated a secret bonus with ExxonMobil, the major portion of which is to be channeled to pay any legal fees if the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy is sent to the International Court of Justice.
Minister of Finance Winston Jordan had told the Department of Public Information (DPI) last week that US$10M was paid by the oil company to lawyers for the state in the dispute between Guyana and Suriname, under the PPP/C administration and that it should have been recorded in the public accounts.
According to Jordan, the money should have been reflected under foreign inflows and current expenditure, when it was expended as payment to the lawyers, which is recorded as payment for consultancy services.
The minister’s statement came as the current government came under pressure over the acceptance of the US$18m signing bonus.
“I know very well that CGX paid the lawyers but that money did not come, as far as I am concerned that I am aware of did not come through the Government,” Jagdeo told reporters.
He said some of the lawyers paid by the company were pursuing the Guyana/Suriname border case since the company’s and government’s interests coincided. He maintained that no monies were paid into any central bank account or any other account from which the lawyers were paid.
“The resolution of the issue was to our mutual interest, so these lawyers worked with CGX too as well as to resolve the matter…because they had a vested interest in the matter. And that was in the public domain, we spoke about this issue, this was not a new issue,” he said.
He said the two cases cannot be compared as in the case of ExxonMobil, Guyana received a signing bonus and it would be interesting to see if the amended contract between Guyana and the oil company provides for this. If it was not provided for in the contract and the money was paid over into an account that is not recorded in the public records “that is even more problematic.”
According to Jordan, if Guyana had not received the money for lawyers from the Canadian Company, it would have had to have been deducted from public funds, therefore the money should have been placed into the Consolidated Fund, as a matter of public accounting procedure.
Whether CGX Energy had a vested interest in settling the maritime dispute or not, the Finance Minister is maintaining that it was on behalf of the Government, hence, the monies should have been placed in the public purse.
He noted that in comparison to what was done under this Government, the US$18M signing bonus received from ExxonMobil is in a special account at the Bank of Guyana, since it is allocated for a special purpose.