NICIL still seeking outstanding payment for GTT shares

- CEO says response expected this week

All efforts are still being made to ensure that Hong Kong Golden Telecom Limited (HKGT) pays over the outstanding money for its purchase of government shares in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT), according to National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) head Horace James.

“We are not giving up, we are still working,” James told Sunday Stabroek last week.

In March, 2016, Minister of State Joseph Harmon and a delegation controversially travelled to China to engage in discussions with regard to the payment of the US$5 million balance owed to the government for the purchase of 20% of GTT shares by Chinese company Datang Telecom Technology and Industry Group, the parent company of HKGT, from NICIL in 2012. This deal was entered into by the PPP/C administration but only US$25 million of the agreed US$30 million was known to have been paid.

While it was later revealed that Harmon had obtained documents which showed that the money was paid over prior to the APNU+AFC coalition taking office and efforts were underway to track the money, NICIL said that it had not received the outstanding balance. Since then, the current government and the PPP have traded accusations on whether the money was received, while NICIL and HKGT have been locked in negotiations.

When this newspaper spoke with James in September last year, he was hoping for a resolution before year end.

Last week, he said that discussions are still taking place and that to date no part of the outstanding balance has been paid over. He said that the two sides have not yet reached that stage.

James said that based on the last engagement between the two sides, the company was to respond to NICIL’s “suggested value.” He said that he expects a clear response this week.

When asked about his confidence in a resolution being reached in the coming months, he said that work is ongoing in this regard.

In December, 2016, James had revealed during a press conference that NICIL was on the verge of preparing to begin arbitration to recover the outstanding balance. However, based on what he said last September, NICIL has decided to engage HKGT on a one-on-one level as opposed to getting a third party involved.

During the press conference, he had made it clear that the outstanding balance was never handed over.

“Let it be clear, NICIL has not received the remaining (US) $5 million that is owed…NICIL is in the process of executing all the relief measures that are in the sales agreement in order for us to recover the [money],” he had said.

James had explained that NICIL had already started consultations with the US lawyer who had assisted the Government company to draft the sales agreement. A firm in the UK was also recommended for the arbitration aspect of the matter, he had said before explaining that it is important that UK-based legal experts are used as the arbitration would take place in London. “We will seek all the relief measures that the agreement grants to us, which will be among other things not only the recovery of our US$5 million but also interest, legal fees…we are going for the entire thing and also not only the signatory to the agreement, we are also going after the guarantor,” he said, while explaining that NICIL’s lawyers have presented all the issues concerning the shares sale and have since advised that it had a “very good chance” of getting all the relief that is being sought.

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