Ramotar submits voluntary statement to SOCU; clarifies issues in press

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General Manager of the Guyana Gold Board, Lisaveta Ramotar is maintaining her innocence in light of allegations of her involvement in a reported money laundering ring with gold dealer, Saddiqi Rasul.

Ms Ramotar, who earlier today (Wednesday, April 26, 2017) along with her attorney, Anil Nandlall paid a visit to the Special Organised Unit submitted a written statement that was addressed to Mr Sydney James, the Agency’s Head.

In this statement, Ms Ramotar says “I wish to assert strongly that I am absolutely innocent of any wrong doings” adding that she has discharged her duties at the Guyana Gold Board professionally.

The GGB General Manager also sought to set the record straight on various issues raised in the press since the Rasul revelations came to light.

Below is a copy of the statement Ramotar submitted to SOCU.

 

“April 26, 2017

Mr. Sydney James

Head Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU)

Camp Road

Georgetown

Dear Mr. James, Re: Investigation into Collusion between the Guyana Gold Board and Saddiqi Rasul

 

In a letter dated April 20, 2017, I was made aware officially that your department is currently conducting an investigation into allegations of money laundering and suspected involvement of staff members of the Guyana Gold Board with gold dealer Saddiqi Rasul. While I have not been called to be interviewed, The Minister of Natural Resources in his letter to me indicated that I cooperate with the investigation and hence, I hereby provide a voluntary statement and response.

My name is Lisaveta Ramotar, and I reside at 142 Ogle View Goedverwagting East Coast Demerara. I have an undergraduate degree in Business Management from the University of Guyana, a Master’s degree in Finance and Investment from the University of York (U.K.) and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Toronto. I was employed at the Guyana Gold Board as the General Manager on January 02, 2015. My duties at the Guyana Gold Board included Implementing Board policy including strategic and operational planning, coordinating activities for implementation, Financial Management: planning, budgeting and auditing, resource allocation, human resources management, information management, administration and external relations. On April 20, 2017, I was sent on Administrative Leave to facilitate the investigation as mentioned above.

I wish to assert strongly that I am absolutely innocent of any wrong doings. I have discharged my duties at the Guyana Gold Board professionally and based on the important metric of declaration it was under my tenure that the Cooperative Republic of Guyana obtained its highest ever declaration to date.

Below I provide responses to issues highlighted in the press during the period of April 03, 2017 – April 23, 2017.

  1. Issue raised: Rasul sold gold several times per day using his mining company indicating a wash down several times per day.

Response: The Guyana Gold Board is required to buy all gold presented to the organisation. The Guyana Gold Board’s mandate is not to verify production. The organisation does not verify production. The current process at the Guyana Gold Board is such that those in possession of gold can either have a production sheet which would be a sheet out of the production books issued by GGMC or they may be given a permission slip, which is issued by the Guyana Gold Board. The Finance Department of the Guyana Gold Board collects both production sheets and permission slips when the department makes payments to those selling gold. The production sheets and permission slips are uplifted daily by the GGMC, the body that regulates mining in Guyana.

  1. Issue Raised: The company did not pay the 2 percent tax.

Response: Under a regulation which I have seen, mining companies are not required to pay the 2 percent withholding tax. The Finance Department of the Guyana Gold Board is directly responsible for making payments to miners and hence has to get proof that in fact the seller of gold is a mining company. To this end, the Finance Department of the Guyana Gold Board must collect documents to support the non payment of the withholding tax.

  1. Issue Raised: Instructions given to the Bartica Manager, to pay the higher of the two daily fix.

Response: One of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of the organisation indicates that the time at which a client enters the client accommodation room determines the fix at which the client would be paid. Sometime in October 2016, Mr. Rasul called to say that the employee selling gold on behalf of his company was at the Bartica Branch prior to the changing of the fix, yet the employee received the second fix. I called the Bartica Manager to inform him about the SOP and at that point he indicated to me that what transpired with Mr. Rasul’s employee is not exactly as had been reported to me. He stated that one of Mr. Rasul’s employee entered the Bartica office prior to the changing of the fix to sell gold on behalf of Mr. Rasul. The employee stated that he had more gold in his vehicle and was going to step out of the office to uplift it. Subsequently, another of Mr. Rasul’s employee entered the Branch with another set of gold selling on behalf of Mr. Rasul’s company. The second person, according to the Branch Manager entered after the changing of the fix and hence received the second fix. When Mr. Rasul was informed of the sequence of events he continued to hold that his employee was there before the fix changed. I indicated to him that I would review the cameras and in the mean time the second transaction was paid at the second fix. Since there was a dispute I asked that the video recording of the event be brought to Georgetown for viewing. It was viewed and it was determined that indeed what the Bartica Manager stated transpired, occurred, and hence the decision to pay the second fix was upheld.

  1. Issue Raised: Multiple visits to the GGB

Response: All employees of the Guyana Gold Board have been trained in Anti money laundering compliance and as late as the latter half of 2016 they were trained in identifying suspicious activities. Front line employees are the ones interacting with customers and hence are best placed to indicate if an activity is suspicious. In the training staff members were told to report suspicious activities to the Compliance Officer. Yet, the Compliance Officer never indicated that she received such reports from staff. It must also be mentioned that Threshold reports are sent monthly to the Financial Intelligence Unit and all of Mr. Rasul’s companies’ transactions are on those reports.

  1. Issue Raised: The Compliance Officer was instructed to incorporate Mr. Rasul’s company

Response: I wish to strongly deny that I ever gave instructions to Ms. Bullen to incorporate Mr. Rasul’s company. In fact, the first time I learnt of her incorporating the company is on April 20, 2017, when she indicated that she should resign her position at the Guyana Gold Board because she incorporated the company.

  1. Issue Raised: The whistleblower states that Guyana Gold Board should not be involved in gold buying and should instead only be involved in the regulatory aspect of the mining business.

Response: It was particularly interesting to read in the Kaieteur News the whistleblower’s views about role of the Guyana Gold Board. As the term whistleblower implies, and from the reports that actual declaration records have been obtained by your entity, it can be concluded that the person is an employee of the Guyana Gold Board. I wish to inform you that should the organisation not be involved in the buying of gold, then sellers of gold will be required to sell their metal only to licensed gold dealers. Further, at most the only relevant department in the organisation would be the Compliance Unit since only regulation of the dealers would be required. Investigators need to question why would someone want their place of employment closed.

 

All for information and guidance.

Sincerely,

Lisaveta Ramotar”

 

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