Friday, July 19, 2024


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Marc Rich was a crook who made the FBI’s Most Wanted List, was pardoned by President Bill Clinton for evading at least 100 million in taxes, then he died. 

Outside of that, he was not only a cunningly astute commodities broker who, while in exile, sold copper to the US Mint until lawmakers found out about it.

He created a business model for OIL commodities trading by going directly to the producer countries, persuading them to cut out the traditional middle men like Exxon and selling straight to the buyers with him as agent- which allowed them to keep more of the revenues and him to get a bigger cut, with the savings made from dumping the middleman.

We mention all this to introduce Trafigura, a company founded by a Claude Dauphin, once wingman to Marc Rich and a deft lieutenant of his sleazy commodities conduct which remains an enduring feature of its business model.

They were reputed for their ‘suitcases of cash’ to seal deals , not unlike the one reportedly slid across the desk to Janet Jagan in 1999,  for the 600 oil blocks a sinner like Janet purportedly gave away in error – per Bharrat’s spin when the PPP were first channeling the oil to their own cash spigots .

Hess Oil, too, seems to have its own problems with proximity to scandal in Equatorial Guinea, and a solid record of pollution violation for which it has paid hefty fines.

And when we read that Trafigura through Hess, was shipping oil to Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd- Mittal with its own footprint of strong arming and scandal and that the Mittal portion of its ownership had its own record for pollution and environmental disregard in its steel entity,  we remembered the warnings of the nexus to  corruption and natural resources. Groups like Revenue Watch and Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative were founded on establishing the inevitability of all forms of fraud when these coveted commodities are marketed by agents unfazed by impropriety.

As of April 19th we learned that Indian Oil Corporation Limited is now one of Guyana’s crude oil buyers. It brings its own questionable repute to the local oil market. Heralding that unsettling news is Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, Dr. K. J. Srinivasa  who signaled that Bharrat Petroleum Corporation, with its own woes , is willing to become a buyer.

Doing business with this country should make every Guyanese worried.

Guyana’s economic history with India, most recently with the coffee business turned opportunity logger, Vaitarna,  is a painful pointer to how the nation is underserved by the PPP government when it is retained to negotiate on their behalf with a company from India.

Stipulated in Vaitarna’s logging contract was the value-added obligation to create jobs for Guyanese, hire from the bottom through every level of the wood processing venture and of specific note, to build and leave processing plants on the ground. They departed, instead, in chest thumping triumph at having been able to leave tents and portable logging equipment in lieu of the brick and mortar buildings and heavy equipment per contractual agreement.

In unchallenged defiance they left, –well sort of – after logging off of 1.82 million acres.  We say unchallenged because their logging included subcontracting and with Baishan Lin and Barama to log on India’s behalf for a fee, an illegal logging concession from the embattled CLICO and a series of non-due- diligence actions that paved the way for Vaitarna to be disrespectful of Guyana and its alleged political authorities.

UK watchdog Global Timber called Coffee Logger Vaitarna ‘s activities in Guyana’s forest “extractive exploitative investments” (pg3 para 6) and chalked the crippling misadventure up to a combination of PPP government’s incompetence and corruption. Worthy of note here is that Barama, another nefarious foreign logger given 1.6 million hectares to log over a 25 year period, left after several cases of disregarding the contractual agreement
but cited that it had pumped some GYD 45 billion into Guyana’s economy over the course of its stay, as if that were a down payment on breach of contract.

We’ll note, as part of its corrupt operating system, the GYD 45 billion spanned the period when when Guyanese citizens were living on approximately US 2.20 per day and under PPP mismanagement that  steered Forestry into steady decline, per World Bank data .

It’s a given that government under the PPP comes with a profusion of deceit…not only because it’s comprised of a clique of people charged with felonies but because its footprint is cemented in the practice.

And with Indian companies being given first dibs at the country’s crude, when the same Government of culprits are at the helm, we still await what the Opposition- the check and balance arm of Government – has to say about an invitation for business from India, which has already demonstrated a lack of respect for PPP Administration and a brazen disregard for Guyanese citizens.

Meanwhile, the Gas to Shore Project, the one commissioned to be over seen by Ashni Singh and Winston Brassington, both of whom had their fraud charges dropped by this government of culprits, reads like another ‘asset recovery exercise in waiting’, given the players to steer the finances and the inexpert made- for –‘misappropriation ‘analysis’ that a consortium of investors could finance gas to shore.

Common sense would dictate that investors with a monetary stake in any venture would be more predisposed to looking for a return on investment, than on project propriety.

Government Officials, supposedly qualified for their positions, would know that a significant endeavor like a gas to shore project must be environmentally responsible not only because the nation has, for decades , been a signatory to international efforts to protect and preserve ecosystems but as top functionaries in nation leadership, they have an executive obligation to guarantee the safe delivery of the product from origin to destination, by affirming that all forms and methods of transportation meet standards that will least affect citizens.

This is why a feasibility study, which, by its name, dictates that all factors along the spectrum of movement of the product from gas to shore have to be methodically analyzed by experts before it can be declared economically, technically and legally ready for market.

So far, the Government of Guyana has not commissioned such an analysis for products that are being harvested by American Companies, which would have to satisfy those basic requirements within the shores of America, if Exxon were doing the same thing there.

This makes us quite curious about why Lady Lynch, the resident US diplomat who must be familiar with the basic operational standards for a company from her country tackling an environmental venture of this magnitude, is so mute on a matter that impacts the  democracy – equal rights of citizens–  she champions.

And the bumbling response by PPP representatives offers cold comfort on whether the much and often touted feasibility study is even a consideration.

The history of Exxon’s parasitism shows that it flourishes when oil rich countries with leaders of corrupt propensity engage its extractive services waving oil as a political resource. And we’ve see their athleticism in skirting anticorruption scrutiny, as we have their doggedness under kindred spirit Trump, to undo a transparency law that would expose any side deals with corrupt officials. On top of all that, Exxon has more than its fair share of experience in defending  allegations of side deposits to private bank accounts of dictators which it has done more than a couple of times.

We’d be hard pressed not to define them as a rogue enterprise given this solid portfolio in artfulness, we’re thinking.

And with a perfect storm line up for malfeasance in Guyana’s oil Administration, the  lack of transparency on line item spending for oil from extraction to delivery and with no substantial feasibility study available for public scrutiny, it would be derelict in observation not to assert that this oil and all of its tentacles could drain the life out of the Guyana’s economy with negligible returns.

The unsavory reputation of the creative accountants handling the gas to shore project says that they could write off those non returns at the expense of tax payers; more so to the further impoverishment of those who depend on tax dollars for basic social covering like public schools, which is even more freakin’ damning.

Nevertheless, at a time when political energy remains focused on positioning top level operatives in the path of the flow of revenue and the ruling party functions as a patronage machine, there may yet be some comfort.

Jagdeo, certainly not out of benevolence or any overwhelming stab of patriotism did sign the United Nations Millenium Declaration in 2000 which held him and all subsequent governments committed to cleaning up a range of corrupt practices, aimed at improving quality of life.

We will not discuss PPP claims of meeting goals that were clearly not evident by protracted poverty and crime, to name a few, nor will we discuss the fact that the Opposition never challenged their fictitious claims of improvement of crime, cost of living or corruption. And no, it was not the UN, or any Western Country’s duty to verify alleged progress unless they had complaints to the contrary…which they never got.

Then came the bedeviled oil contract and the billions left on the table by the irrationally exuberant negotiators who felt that it mattered not what deal they got, making us duly nervous when it was decided that oil revenue would be best fielded from Bank of Guyana.

And Irfan Ali’s commitment to accountability made us even more skittish because that’s what they do right before they are charged with felonies.

If the current government wants to be transparent and make all oil money spending public, as Mr. Ali pledged , he’d tell us what happened to the Green Paper paid for by tax payers under the previous Administration, tell us who has replaced Kazakhstan as the Operations Manager of the Wealth Fund and what role the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute plays in our patrimony, particularly since they seem not to know our geographical location and list our address as Latin America.

That’s not a small misstatement error for an entity poised to handle our billions… if that’s their portfolio.

And when Corruption is the Operating System there are no misstatements that should be dismissed as errors.

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