Jagdeo says probe may be needed into Hughes’ possible conflict of interest

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Vice President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo believes that Nigel Hughes, who was recently elected leader of the opposition Alliance For Change (AFC), may be facing a conflict of interest.

Hughes, according to Jagdeo, straddles politics but also serves his professional ambitions as the lawyer for the local ExxonMobil-led consortium producing oil offshore.

“It’s what’s ethical first of all,” Jagdeo said at his Thursday press conference where he sat as General Secreatary of the governing People’s Progressive Party.

And he questioned the possibility of Hughes balancing political leadership while representing ExxonMobil through the Hughes, Fields and Stoby law firm.

Hughes reportedly said he will distance himself from the oil company if he gets into government. Until then, he could not speak openly about his client.

The Vice President, however, contended that Hughes may already be categorised as a politically- exposed person. This is so, Jagdeo opined, because Hughes may have already straddled both these roles while the APNU+AFC coalition was in office, before he eventually resigned from the top leadership of the AFC in 2016.

And as per Guyana’s Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act, he believes Hughes is categorised as a politically- exposed person.

The Act defines such a person as “any individual who is or has been entrusted with prominent public functions on behalf of a state, including a head of state or of government, senior politicians, senior government, judicial or military officials, senior executives of state-owned corporations, important political party officials, including family members or close associates of the politically exposed person whether that person is a resident in Guyana or not.”

And there are concerns that such politically- exposed persons may use their position of influence to sway business transactions. Jagdeo flagged concerns about Hughes’ possibly doing so.

Given the concerns, Jagdeo said a probe may be necessary.

“We are watching what Exxon and the others will do, the first tier contractors.

“ … this may necessitate a formal investigation into all these matters,” Jagdeo said.

Hughes was on Saturday declared the new Leader of the Alliance for Change with 149 votes to his main rival Sherod Duncan’s 62.

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