The National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NI-CIL) recently accepted an offer made by Hong Kong Golden Telecom Limited (HKGT) to pay US$3M of the outstanding US$5M for the purchase of government shares in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT), sources say.
Stabroek News was told that despite the acceptance, the matter will soon be engaging the attention of cabinet. Sources say that it was felt that it would be wiser to accept the reduced sum than have the matter go to arbitration, which could result in Guyana spending most, if not all of the US$5M in legal costs alone.
The shares were sold to the Chinese firm in 2012. The 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.
In December, 2016 it was revealed that NICIL was on the verge of preparing to begin arbitration to recover the outstanding balance. NICIL’s head Horace James had informed at that time, that the entity had already started consultations with the US lawyer that helped the company to draft the sales agreement. A firm in the UK was recommended for the arbitration aspect of the matter, he had said, before explaining that it was important that UK-based legal experts were 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 had explained to reporters, noting that NICIL’s lawyers had presented all the issues concerning the share sale and had advised that NICIL had a “very good chance” of getting all the relief that was being sought.
However, it was subsequently decided that NICIL would engage HKGT on a one-on-one basis as opposed to getting a third party involved.
Last March representatives of the Chinese company visited Guyana and put forward a proposal which was later discussed by NICIL’s board and government.
In March, 2016, Minister of State Joseph Harmon and a delegation controversially travelled to China to engage in discussions regarding the outstanding money.
While it was later stated 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. The government later clarified that no such documents were received.