Case of rejected Panama rice on SOCU radar

Nizam Hassan

Following complaints to police by former Head of the Alesie Group of Companies Dr Turhane Doerga and others, the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) is now investigating the circumstances surrounding the Panama rice deal and its rejected shipment.

Doerga told Stabroek News last week that he filed private charges against the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), as he was of the opinion that it is in collusion with the miller whose rice was rejected by the Panamanian authorities last month.

A SOCU source yesterday confirmed to this publication that the matter was first taken to the Commissioner of Police and was subsequently referred to the unit on Tuesday. The investigation is now ongoing and Stabroek News was also told that persons have already been questioned, while SOCU awaits the return of the containers to the country.

Meanwhile, Doerga confirmed yesterday that he met with officials from the unit and is assisting with the investigations.

“SOCU considered it a serious thing. You can’t export over 80,000 bags of noncompliant rice for a contract like the one for Panama and so we feel that there’s a tremendous risk that we lose the contract. There are similarities with the situation with the Venezuela deal and we are trying to ensure that the Panamanian government feel that there was an error and that stringent measures has taken place so we can continue the contract,” Doerga explained.

He added that the grader or some other person cannot be blamed for what happened and opined that there is a collusion between the miller who exported the rice and the GRDB.

GRDB head Nizam Hassan had confirmed that some 20 containers were stopped by the Panamanian Authorities and rejected after it was found that parboiled rice was shipped instead of white rice, which millers are contractually obligated to supply.

As a result, the miller was given the directive to stop packaging rice during the nights at his facility and eventually was stopped from exporting.

Hassan had also explained that the GRDB was unsure of how the mix-up might have happened since it would’ve done checks to samples of the container before authorising its exportation. The miller had initially also come up blank with explanations as to what had happened, however, head of the Guyana Rice Exporters and Millers Association (GREMA) Rajendra Persaud had related that that the miller, during a subsequent meeting, accepted blame for the mix-upt.

“We have to fire the whole GRDB Board and the Minister [of Agriculture Noel Holder]. We are taking it to court because those people who will get injured in all of this are the farmers. The farmers are already going bankrupt,” Doerga, however, asserted.

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