Money laundering probe widens…Police revoke over 30 gun licences from embattled gold dealer
Police last week revoked the licences of over 30 guns in the possession of embattled gold
dealer, Saddiqi ‘Bobby’ Rasul.
The licences were reportedly issued to a security firm owned by Rasul. The weapons included handguns, shotguns and rifles.
This latest development comes at a time when Rasul remains under investigations for money laundering, relating to his gold dealing activities.
Rasul’s case has been riveting the nation over the last few weeks.
One of the biggest gold dealers, the Bartica businessman fell from grace last month after he was accused of overseeing an almost $1B fraud on the Bartica branch of the Guyana Bank For Trade and Industry (GBTI).
His arrest and charge for fraud sparked a massive investigation which saw a number of law enforcement agencies zeroing in on his operations which involved the purchase and sale of gold of over $15B last year.
His activities reportedly had far-reaching consequences with three senior officials of the Guyana Gold Board (GGB) being sent home over a week ago on administrative leave to facilitate a probe by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), an arm of the police, into possible money laundering.
According to reports, last month, the gold dealer ran afoul of GBTI after he withdrew $950M from his account at the Bartica branch of GBTI. Police said that he issued cheques drawn on his Citizens Bank account. However, he allegedly knew that the Citizens Bank account had been closed yet reportedly went ahead and wrote up cheques and deposited it at GBTI.
Reportedly, the GBTI branch manager failed to conduct the necessary checks to ensure there were funds available and instead allegedly authorized the payout to the gold dealer and his representatives.
The bank manager has since been sent home and is assisting in the police probe. Rasul was slapped with several fraud charges and placed on $3M bail.
Former Chief Justice (ag), Ian Chang, who retired earlier this year, has been granted a fiat by the Director of Public Prosecutions to be a special prosecutor in the fraud case against Rasul.
Rasul’s activities with the GGB also came under the microscope and the matter was handed over to SOCU by Government.
It was alleged that Rasul was running a scheme where instead of his gold dealing company, he used a mining company, R. Mining Inc., to sell gold to GGB. In so doing, he was not required to pay a two percent tax.
Somehow, no one at Gold Board noticed the red flags that it would have been impossible for R. Mining to produce and sell gold daily, sometimes as much as six times.
It is estimated that GRA as a result lost about $100M in taxes in three months alone, late last year because of the scheme.
SOCU is checking to see whether there were any collusion with GGB.
General Manager, Lisaveta Ramotar; her deputy, Andrea Seelochan and Compliance/Legal Officer, Suzanne Bullen, were all sent on administrative leave by the Ministry of Natural Resources.
It was found that Bullen was the one who helped form Rasul’s company, SSS Minerals Trading Enterprise, which was later issued a dealer’s licence by her employer- the Guyana Gold Board.
Ramotar last week voluntarily submitted a written statement to SOCU which was later released to the media.
The official claimed that she never ordered Bullen to form the company. She also insisted that
GGB was not responsible for verifying the production- where the gold came from, and that her mandate was to buy.
It was pointed out that the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission received regular reports. So too had the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
In recent weeks, SOCU and GRA have raided business and residential properties of Rasul and his business associates, seizing cash, luxury vehicles, bikes and even a jet ski.
Several workers and associates have been detained and questioned during the investigations.