With US$18M bonus revealed, Guyana gave ‘up everything’ on border case – Trotman
By Devina Samaroo
Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman Friday morning said the Government has “given up everything” regarding the oil deal with ExxonMobil and its partners and suggested the Government was unsure of the consequences of doing so, especially as it relates to the legal settlement of the long-standing border controversy with Venezuela.
“We didn’t believe we needed to let our friends to the west know all that we are doing and how we are preparing.
“But now they know thanks to those who made demands on us to tell all. We’ve given up everything! We don’t know what Venezuela’s strategy is, but there are people in Guyana that feel they must know everything,” Trotman told the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Natural Resources.
Last year, the Government, after several instances of denials by ministers, was forced to admit that it received a US$18 million signing bonus from ExxonMobil after the Stabroek News published a leaked document showing that the money was deposited into a Central Bank account.
Minister Trotman explained to the Natural Resources Committee that the receipt of the funds was kept secret not because ministers wanted to steal the money, but in the interest of the country’s national security as US$15M of the signing bonus was earmarked to cover the legal expenses given the fact that Guyana expected the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy to head to the World Court.
The United Nations Secretary-General has referred the border controversy to the World Court and the National Assembly last Friday cleared G$788 million of the funds to cover the legal expenses expected to be incurred this year.
The rest of the monies are still being held outside of the Consolidated Fund and this has raised major concerns among lawmakers and civil society groups; it even trigged court cases attempting to force the Government to deposit the funds into the public purse.
But Minister Trotman made it pellucid that there is nothing sinister in keeping the signing bonus outside of the Consolidated Fund.
“It was no pursuit of enriching any Minister of Government. It was US$18M, not a cent more, not a cent less. And no Government or no Minister wanting to steal money would ask the Bank of Guyana Governor who; no one knows him to be on any list of the APNU or AFC or supporter of this Government, to hold the money for them.
“No one wanting to steal would ask the Governor to be the keeper of the funds – you’d put it someplace else,” Trotman stated.
Trotman explained that the US$18 million signing bonus was calculated based on the benchmark of US$12 million which CGX Energy used to fund the maritime boundary dispute case between Guyana and Suriname at the United Nations Tribunal on Law of the Sea.
He said it was the Guyana Government who asked ExxonMobil for support and the oil company agreed to provide US$15 million for the legal case as well as US$3 million for capacity building.
Trotman said the Government is still in the process of deciding how it will spend the US$3 million.