Multi-billion$$$ gold smuggling racket blown wide open

Multi-billion$$$ gold smuggling racket blown wide open

August 27, 2015 | By | Filed Under News 

 gold-board1– collusion at Airports, Customs being investigated – Govt. official

– smugglers’ US visas revoked

 

In recent years, Guyana has been cashing in on high gold prices, with miners and investors taking the risks and plunging headlong into the industry. They borrowed heavily from the banks, used their life’s savings and even took heavy machinery on credit.

Things were looking good, with declarations reaching an all-time high in 2013 – over 481,000 ounces, and with gold earnings reaching an unprecedented US$716M that year.

However, as world prices plunged last year, gold exports contracted 20 percent, with only 387,508 ounces declared to the Guyana Gold Board by licensed traders. Export earnings fell to US$470M.

It was widely believed that scores of miners, disheartened by the price drop on the world market, pulled out, causing production to fall. However, there is emerging evidence that the huge drop is a direct result of a well organized smuggling racket that involved not only ordinary business persons but also licensed gold exporters. The racket also involves senior officials and key personnel at the country’s airports.

For this year alone, gold declarations have fallen behind 30 percent, when compared to the same period of 2014.

It was one of the major contributory factors that caused the economy to reflect a lower growth rate last year as gold was the biggest foreign currency earner, ahead of rice and sugar. It has fallen behind now.

According to a senior Government official involved in the investigation, the coalition administration was alerted to the situation by the US authorities, since the issue goes way beyond mere smuggling. It also involves money laundering.

This newspaper has since learnt that the US Embassy here in Georgetown has revoked the visas of a number of persons, including businessmen, licensed gold exporters, their workers and even members of their families.

As a matter of fact, the prevalence of gold smuggling has been likened to that of the lucrative drug trade in Guyana, the Government official said yesterday.

Both licensed and illegal gold traders are battling each other to take control of the trade.

The situation has gotten quite worse over the last two years. It is estimated that between 10,000-15,000 ounces of gold per week is being smuggled out via the Ogle and Cheddi Jagan International Airports. Some more is being taken overland to the border at Corentyne to Suriname and via Lethem to Brazil.

At the very least, it means that Guyana is losing out from revenues that can be earned from at least US$500M in gold sales.

It also means that the amount being smuggled annually is more than what is declared to official buyers like the Guyana Gold Board and the licensed traders.

With Guyana charging up to 7 percent of the value in royalties and taxes, places like Suriname and Brazil have become attractive markets because of the lucrative profits due to the lower taxes in those countries.

The gold racket has spread its tentacles as far as Belgium in Europe and the Middle East.

According to the official, Government and the Guyana Gold Board have called in the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) to lead the investigations. And it is no wonder – the smuggling racket is highly organized. Small unlicensed traders have worked out a system using direct flights to JFK International Airport, New York. They would buy up to 100 or 200 ounces. With gold at a four-year low of just over US$1,100 per ounce, the money involved is not chicken feed.

Kaieteur News was told that Customs officers and other security personnel at the airports are tipped off when the traders are flying out, and would turn a blind eye to what is being taken out.

“The situation has become a wild west one. It is hurting the country. We are talking about saving here and saving there. The gold smuggling, simply put, is creating a big hole at the bottom of the pot. It is big money…millions of US dollars monthly. We are losing big time. And everybody is getting a cut of it,” the government source said.

Investigators have found that quite a number of the illegal gold traders are holders of US passports or “green cards” who would have seized the opportunity to make a quick buck. It is a fact that most of these traders know each other. They would line up at JFK to declare the gold after disembarking their flights.

With regards to the larger licensed traders, the smuggling is even more sophisticated, this newspaper was told.

Official Customs documents are reportedly recycled, with persons being paid off at the airports. Yesterday, Minister with responsibilities for Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, admitted that a probe involving a number of agencies like the Guyana Gold Board and SOCU is underway.

“The smuggling of gold has been given priority because every ounce of gold smuggled, we are not getting royalties…we are being robbed.”

He said that the gold is being smuggled across the border at Brazil…it goes up to Europe, and of course gold is being smuggled to the US.

He declined to give details, but insisted that the gold smuggling issue is a priority for the administration.

Yesterday, General Manager of the Guyana Gold Board, Lisaveta Ramotar, also confirmed that an investigation is ongoing, but she declined to go into details. She made it clear that any gold leaving the country through CJIA has to be approved by the Guyana Gold Board. If there is no permission, she stressed, then it is leaving illegally.

“Every ounce of gold that leaves this country undeclared is of concern to us. It is revenues for the country. We feel strongly about this, but it is under investigation by SOCU.”

Original Post

quote "

According to a senior Government official involved in the investigation, the coalition administration was alerted to the situation by the US authorities, since the issue goes way beyond mere smuggling. It also involves money laundering.

This newspaper has since learnt that the US Embassy here in Georgetown has revoked the visas of a number of persons, including businessmen, licensed gold exporters, their workers and even members of their families.

As a matter of fact, the prevalence of gold smuggling has been likened to that of the lucrative drug trade in Guyana, the Government official said yesterday."unquote

GRA “most perturbed” by reports of mass gold smuggling

August 27, 2015 5:16 pm Category: latest news A+ / A-

Gold_bullion[www.inewsguyana.com] – Recent reports of gold smuggling in Guyana has brought the mining sector under the microscope once more and the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) says that it is disturbed by the reports which allege mass smuggling of the precious mineral from Guyana. In a statement to the press, GRA stated that based on its previous experiences in the past where the integrity of the GRA was compromised by officers within the Authority, who have been in collusion with unscrupulous characters, fervent efforts have been made to hold officers accountable to standard operational procedures. The tax Body says it “is most perturbed by recent revelations in the press about an organised gold smuggling racket and the implication of customs officials in this malpractice.” It was stated based on the roles and responsibilities of customs officers, particularly at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) and other ports of entry, it is quite baffling to the Authority that officers would be embroiled in the illegal gold smuggling ring. “In accordance with the law, passengers with gold worn jewellery are not required to make a declaration providing that it does not exceed a certain value. On the other hand those in possession of raw and scrap gold and those with gold in commercial quantities, must make the required declarations. In such instances, the declaration must be accompanied by an approved import licence and permission from the Guyana Gold Board with an attachment stating the price, weight and other particulars of the shipper and consignee,” a the release stated. GRA says that there is a likelihood that because of the foregoing provisions, there would be an enticement to smuggle items as worn jewellery in an attempt to elude Customs officials. As such, the support from other enforcement agencies such as the Customs Anti Narcotics Unit (CANU) would be integral given the pervasive nature of smuggling.

Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority [GRA), Khurshid Sattaur

Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Khurshid Sattaur

“Customs Officers at the CJIA do not monitor outgoing passengers’ baggage. This activity is monitored solely by CANU, the Criminal Investigation Department and Special Branch of the Guyana Police Force and airport security personnel…. additionally, with pressure from the international community for countries to strengthen its legislation to guard against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, there is likely to be greater scrutiny for persons from Guyana to disclose the source of their valuable assets to US authorities,” GRA stated. The agency will be seeking to ascertain the perpetrators in question to determine what enforcement action will be taken in accordance with the country’s border, trade laws and regulations.

Reports in another section of the media indicate that Guyanese and United States authorities have uncovered a money laundering and gold smuggling racket that has so robbed the country of more than US$200 million (GUY$42 billion) worth of the precious metal over a four-month period.

According to reports, as part of a crackdown, the US Visas for several gold miners have been revoked by the US authorities.

Originally Posted by asj:

Multi-billion$$$ gold smuggling racket blown wide open

August 27, 2015 | By | Filed Under News 

 gold-board1– collusion at Airports, Customs being investigated – Govt. official

– smugglers’ US visas revoked

 

In recent years, Guyana has been cashing in on high gold prices, with miners and investors taking the risks and plunging headlong into the industry. They borrowed heavily from the banks, used their life’s savings and even took heavy machinery on credit.

Things were looking good, with declarations reaching an all-time high in 2013 – over 481,000 ounces, and with gold earnings reaching an unprecedented US$716M that year.

However, as world prices plunged last year, gold exports contracted 20 percent, with only 387,508 ounces declared to the Guyana Gold Board by licensed traders. Export earnings fell to US$470M.

It was widely believed that scores of miners, disheartened by the price drop on the world market, pulled out, causing production to fall. However, there is emerging evidence that the huge drop is a direct result of a well organized smuggling racket that involved not only ordinary business persons but also licensed gold exporters. The racket also involves senior officials and key personnel at the country’s airports.

For this year alone, gold declarations have fallen behind 30 percent, when compared to the same period of 2014.

It was one of the major contributory factors that caused the economy to reflect a lower growth rate last year as gold was the biggest foreign currency earner, ahead of rice and sugar. It has fallen behind now.

According to a senior Government official involved in the investigation, the coalition administration was alerted to the situation by the US authorities, since the issue goes way beyond mere smuggling. It also involves money laundering.

This newspaper has since learnt that the US Embassy here in Georgetown has revoked the visas of a number of persons, including businessmen, licensed gold exporters, their workers and even members of their families.

As a matter of fact, the prevalence of gold smuggling has been likened to that of the lucrative drug trade in Guyana, the Government official said yesterday.

Both licensed and illegal gold traders are battling each other to take control of the trade.

The situation has gotten quite worse over the last two years. It is estimated that between 10,000-15,000 ounces of gold per week is being smuggled out via the Ogle and Cheddi Jagan International Airports. Some more is being taken overland to the border at Corentyne to Suriname and via Lethem to Brazil.

At the very least, it means that Guyana is losing out from revenues that can be earned from at least US$500M in gold sales.

It also means that the amount being smuggled annually is more than what is declared to official buyers like the Guyana Gold Board and the licensed traders.

With Guyana charging up to 7 percent of the value in royalties and taxes, places like Suriname and Brazil have become attractive markets because of the lucrative profits due to the lower taxes in those countries.

The gold racket has spread its tentacles as far as Belgium in Europe and the Middle East.

According to the official, Government and the Guyana Gold Board have called in the Special Organized Crime Unit (SOCU) to lead the investigations. And it is no wonder – the smuggling racket is highly organized. Small unlicensed traders have worked out a system using direct flights to JFK International Airport, New York. They would buy up to 100 or 200 ounces. With gold at a four-year low of just over US$1,100 per ounce, the money involved is not chicken feed.

Kaieteur News was told that Customs officers and other security personnel at the airports are tipped off when the traders are flying out, and would turn a blind eye to what is being taken out.

“The situation has become a wild west one. It is hurting the country. We are talking about saving here and saving there. The gold smuggling, simply put, is creating a big hole at the bottom of the pot. It is big money…millions of US dollars monthly. We are losing big time. And everybody is getting a cut of it,” the government source said.

Investigators have found that quite a number of the illegal gold traders are holders of US passports or “green cards” who would have seized the opportunity to make a quick buck. It is a fact that most of these traders know each other. They would line up at JFK to declare the gold after disembarking their flights.

With regards to the larger licensed traders, the smuggling is even more sophisticated, this newspaper was told.

Official Customs documents are reportedly recycled, with persons being paid off at the airports. Yesterday, Minister with responsibilities for Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, admitted that a probe involving a number of agencies like the Guyana Gold Board and SOCU is underway.

“The smuggling of gold has been given priority because every ounce of gold smuggled, we are not getting royalties…we are being robbed.”

He said that the gold is being smuggled across the border at Brazil…it goes up to Europe, and of course gold is being smuggled to the US.

He declined to give details, but insisted that the gold smuggling issue is a priority for the administration.

Yesterday, General Manager of the Guyana Gold Board, Lisaveta Ramotar, also confirmed that an investigation is ongoing, but she declined to go into details. She made it clear that any gold leaving the country through CJIA has to be approved by the Guyana Gold Board. If there is no permission, she stressed, then it is leaving illegally.

“Every ounce of gold that leaves this country undeclared is of concern to us. It is revenues for the country. We feel strongly about this, but it is under investigation by SOCU.”

Legcacy of Robert Pusssaud.

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