Importer who recently paid $36m for undeclared fuel had been in legal wrangle last year over offshore delivery

-captain of vessel was fined $10m by GRA

Lynwill, the company that recently paid $36 million in duties to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) for undeclared fuel on the MT Jubilee had last year arranged for the delivery of fuel offshore, sources and documents reveal, raising continuing questions about its activities in this sector.

That deal ended up in a legal wrangle that saw a $10M settlement between the captain of the vessel and the GRA and a separate fallout and court battle between the local importers of the fuel and their purchasers.

Court records show that GRA and boat captain Hildebrand Laura Vasquez, of the MT Atlantica, reached a settlement where a $10M fine was paid to the GRA after a decision was made to quash a $100,000,000 bond that the tax agency had initially required.

“The aforesaid sum is paid and agreed to be accepted by the Commissioner General in consideration of the Commissioner General agreeing to withdraw the demand for the deposit of a cash deposit by…MT Atlantica of a bond in the sum of $100,000,000 by the aforesaid letter,” court documents seen by this newspaper stated.

A subsequent discharge letter issued by the Commissioner General of the GRA, details the payment.

Vasquez would tell the court in an affidavit that he was contracted to bring 883,000 gallons of fuel, bought at US$1.58 per gallon and totalling US$1,392,140 offshore of Guyana or Grenada for Lynwill International Trading Guyana Inc., and Lynwill would send out another vessel to offload the fuel. 

However, Lynwill did not honour its deal, he said, and he was left stranded at sea without food and water supplies. Not hearing from his partners on when the rest of monies would be released to his company’s bank, he came in-transit to Port Georgetown to replenish and leave.

“The cargo of diesel fuel aboard the MT Atlantica was declared to the Guyana Revenue Authority as In-Transit because Capital Energy Corporation (the vendor) had not been paid for it…In any event the cargo was to be delivered by ship to ship transfer in international waters outside Guyana according to the contract dated 24th January 2017…The MT Atlantica was forced to enter Georgetown with the cargo manifesto in transit on February 28th 2017, to obtain supplies of water and food which had depleted,” Vasquez, an American citizen swore before the court.

Last month, GRA Commissioner-General Godfrey Statia had told the press that a vessel, the MT Jubilee, seized by his agency with over 200,000 gallons of fuel had brought in the fuel on a Lynwill licence.

 “We have boarded the vessel until such time as the taxes have been paid. What happened is that we recognized that the fuel was not declared and if it was not declared well then that is our remit so we boarded”, he informed when asked about the matter during a press conference held at his Camp Street office.

“[The] owners are making payment arrangements…It was imported through a Lynwill licence …Lynwill has a licence issued by the GEA [Guyana Energy Agency],” he also said.

The MT Jubilee was detained over concerns that the shipment had not been declared and Statia would later inform that arrangements were being made to pay some $36M in taxes on it. Those monies were paid, the vessel released and the fuel was offloaded at a location in Linden this newspaper understands.

Statia would also inform that when the GRA seized such a vessel last year the captain was fined $20M.

The MT Jubilee was bought by SBF International Inc. in May of 2016 when Anand Sanasie, Dorwain Bess and Roysdale Forde were the three directors of the company.

Information seen by this newspaper also shows that the MT Jubilee has journeyed mostly between Port Georgetown and Linden. It travelled between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago on March 25th this year.

Owner of the vessel, Sanasie, would not comment on the matter when contacted and told this newspaper that he prefers the GRA to speak on the issue.

Stabroek News reached out to the Commissioner General but he has not responded to queries made.

The GRA has also been mum on its probe of possible shortcomings in the MT Jubilee seizure investigations. Statia had revealed that since the interception of the vessel, the GRA had picked up some faults in its operations and later discovered that efforts were made to conceal them.

“Emanating from that we have found that there are some shortcomings on our end especially at the boathouse and we are trying to fix that particular end of it. We found that persons were trying to put the entry in after the boat was boarded…days after the fuel was not marked”, he had said.

According to the GRA head, in addition to looking at the maritime records to see the frequency with which this boat would’ve been coming into Port Georgetown, checks are being made with the Demerara Harbour Bridge to see the “frequency with which these boats have been passing through the Harbour Bridge and based on the information we garnered from Maritime and from the Demerara Harbour Bridge we would then be in a position to determine whether this was actually a hiccup in the system or the person was trying to smuggle the (fuel)”, he noted.

Observers have questioned why the captain of the MT Jubilee was not fined but the captain of the MT Atlantica fined $10M.

Double standard?

“Why was the captain of the Jubilee not fined but there was a high fine on the captain of [MT] Atlantica?  Is there a double standard? What are the guidelines or laws used in determining these fines? How is fuel on the Jubilee stated as undeclared and they did not produce the requisite custom duty forms? Undeclared items are typically excess goods whereas this  seems more like uncustomed fuel, which is it?” one observer close to the process questioned.

When the Captain of the vessel was last year fined, Forde had said that he was Secretary of Lynwill and the company was the owner of the MT Jubilee and another named PB1. “That the assets of the claimant are inclusive of the Vessels MV Jubilee and PB1 which is valued in excess of $400, 000, 000,” he had stated in an affidavit.

And while the MT Atlantica’s Captain had said that he came into Port Georgetown for food and water supplies and would leave because he wasn’t paid in full for the fuel procured by Forde’s company, Forde asked the court to grant an injunction to prevent the vessel from leaving.

“I Roysdale A Forde of 77 Hadfield Street, Werk-en-Rust, Georgetown, being duly sworn, make oath as follow; that I am the secretary of the Claimant Company and the matter to which I swear to herein are within my knowledge. That on or around the 3rd day of January.2017, the claimant and the defendants entered into an oral agreement for the purchase of diesel. That the defendants agreed with the claimant that the Defendants would deliver diesel in any quantity in respect of any sum paid by the claimant to the defendants. That the defendants informed the claimant that the defendants will be able to deliver 880,000 gallons of Diesel upon their arrival in Guyana. That the defendants agreed that they will deliver diesel to the claimants six days after any initial payment,” his affidavit states.

“That on the 13th day of January, 2017, the claimant paid the sum of US$150, 000, that the defendants did not deliver the diesel within six days as aforesaid. That notwithstanding the failure to deliver the Diesel as aforesaid, the Claimant made to the defendants the payments as set out aforesaid. That the Vessel MT Atlantic(a) arrived at Port Georgetown on the 28th day of February 2017. That on the said 28th day of February, 2017, a further sum of US$90,000 was paid to the defendants. That on the 7th day of March 2017, a further $70,320 was paid the defendants. That on the aforesaid oral agreement it was specifically agreed that upon arrival in Port Georgetown the Defendants will deliver a certificate of origin and a certificate of quality as required under the Customs Authority and by the Guyana Energy Agency. That the Claimant requested from the defendants delivery of Diesel to the value paid by them and they have failed to do so. That we became suspicious of the defendants motive as communication ceased with the defendants and we proceeded to monitor the activities of the aforesaid Vessel MT Atlantic,” he added.

Further, Forde pointed out that “That on the 10th day of March, 2017, we were informed by Boathouse Authority that the Captain of the second named defendants requested clearance to leave port Georgetown, at 3:00am, on the 11th day of March 2017. That the aforesaid clearance was granted to the said defendants to leave Port Georgetown,” and given that they have no assets and or commercial tied to Guyana they should be stopped from leaving unless they are given the value of the fuel they paid for. “Unless the defendants are restrained from departing the jurisdiction …the claimants will suffer irretrievable hardship,” he noted while asking the court to grant, “An injunction restraining the first named defendant, their servants, agents, officers, Directors and or assigns from causing, permitting and or instructing the Captain or officers of the Vessel MT Atlantic to leave and or depart from the jurisdiction of Guyana….Unless delivering to the claimant at Port Georgetown, Guyana, diesel to the value of $310,300 which is currently aboard the Vessel MT Atlantic.”

In the end, an agreement was reached between the MT Atlantica owners and Lynwill but Vasquez and his superiors claim that Lynwill still owes for fuel it took.

 

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