Shocking revelations – Stabroek News

The most disturbing report we have produced in a very long time appeared in our July 8 edition. It was a recap of the extended version of the VICE News video documentary titled “Guyana For Sale,” the first part of which aired in June. 18. This part largely consisted of an interview with Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo and his tenant, Mr. Su Zhirong, as well as a VICE reporter posing as a Chinese businessman interested in a deal here. The meeting had been arranged, according to the documentary, in order to demonstrate to the supposed entrepreneur that Mr. Su, a middleman, had “access to the highest level”.

In the excerpts of the interview that were shown, Mr. Jagdeo did not become directly involved in “the business deal”, and he later strenuously denied any implication that he was associated with corrupt practices. As for Mr. Su’s specific allegations that he took bribes, he replied that his tenant had abused their friendship for his own gain and lied about him, and whether VICE News had been discernment, then they would have realized they were “cheated”. Afterwards, he announced that he was filing a defamation suit against Mr. Su, who, unsurprisingly, is no longer his tenant.

But this latest extended version of the “Guyana For Sale” functionality is of a whole different order. This will cause Guyanese to wonder if they are really the masters in their own country and who, in fact, makes the decisions. What does independence mean if our assets can be sold off to greedy business interests, regardless of their nationality, through corrupt processes where the state and its agencies become useless.

VICE reporters who were native Mandarin speakers seemed to have had no trouble hiding to gather information about Chinese business practices here. The reporter, Ms. Yeung, along with her undercover colleague called Mr. Chan, posed as investors interested in mining, logging and construction. They were eventually guided into what was supposed to be a lucrative deal involving prime land on which a hotel and casino could be built.

They told Mr. Su that their capital was blocked in China, which has strict controls on sending money overseas, and he arranged a meeting with money launderers. One of them said to Ms. Yeung “You give me RMB [Chinese currency] and I can give you some money tomorrow. This was done through a procedure known as “flying money”, whereby the money is placed in a bank account in China, and the equivalent amount minus a substantial fee is withdrawn in Guyana. By this means, taxes and border restrictions can be circumvented.

Laundering fees, they told them, are based on the source of the money. The launderer said, “Tell me about your money. If it’s drug money, the client will tell me. There is a way to handle this. For ‘dirty’ money from corrupt Chinese officials, we have another way to do it… If you want money, we charge 20% now…” The least that can be said is that testifies to a well-established system that has been put in place. place for some time, not to mention the association with the proceeds of drug trafficking.

When the men were asked into which account the money had to be paid to ensure the intervention of Mr. Jagdeo. Mr. Su replied, “Once the money is in Guyana. I will give him some money. The vice-president finds this the simplest and most practical. Ms. Yeung was already aware of the claims about the need for the vice president’s intervention in business ventures. When she asked a timber exporter, for example, which in-country connection was most important, she was told, “Basically, as long as you have a good relationship with the vice president, you’re good to go. You don’t need the president. The vice president. One call will solve everything. In another context, it was mentioned that other Guyanese officials also needed to be paid.

There were various encounters with Chinese businessmen in different locations with the reporters wearing body cameras, but one of them, on a retreat that appeared to be up the Demerara River, the exporter of wood mentioned above advised them on the best way to work the system. “Everything is under the table,” he said, as another chimed in, “the whole country is like that.” A third laughed and added: “It would be more worrying if they weren’t corrupt.

Well the whole country is not like that: there are thousands and thousands of Guyanese who struggle every day to earn an honest dollar to feed themselves and their children. If they’ve seen the documentary or read our report on it, they must either be in disbelief or feel very sick. In some sort of amorphous sense everyone knows about corruption, but nothing systemized on this scale.

Ms Yeung also met with the general manager of one of China’s largest construction companies which she said was directly linked to the Chinese Communist Party. The impression she got was that this company seemed to be doing business here “very under the table”, going on to observe that “Beijing authorities know exactly what is going on”.

She also said Mr. Su had shown them documents from companies he had managed as well as those of others in which he had been involved, including a major road project. There was also correspondence regarding the Amaila Falls.

Following the broadcast of this latest episode of Chinese corruption in Guyana, the Chinese Embassy issued a statement stating that their government and the Chinese Communist Party have a zero-tolerance policy on corruption. China is a country governed by the rule of law, according to the statement, and Chinese nationals were urged to abide by laws and regulations as well as actively fulfill their local social responsibilities. In a comment that may well have come from our own presidential secretariat, VICE News was accused of seeking to undermine bilateral relations between China.

This is not good enough. Given what was shown on video through body cameras, Beijing cannot let this pass without appearing complicit. President Xi Jinping has built his reputation in part on fighting corruption, and the Chinese government should now be aggressive in prosecuting those of its nationals who violate not only Guyanese laws but also its own financial regulations. This is a clear case of soft power gone wrong. He wants to believe, no doubt, that the Americans are behind these revelations, but the question is not who is behind it, but whether they are true or not. And at first glance, there is a case to answer. It will be much worse for China’s reputation if Guyana pursues an investigation, while Beijing is mired in a posture of denial.

And then there is Guyana. After the vice-president showed an excerpt from the interview with MM. Su and Chan in February before the first installment of the documentary aired, President Irfaan Ali said the allegations against Mr Jagdeo were made for the sake of sensationalism. They are certainly sensational, but there is no sensationalism involved. The president then went into traditional PPP mode accusing the accuser without responding to the accusations. The government has received information, he said, that raises questions about the credibility of the VICE reporter (Ms. Yeung). Reports suggested, he continued, that she had been sent here by a “special group” with a “special interest”. “My government is above all odds,” he said.

Again, no matter what “special interest” it might represent, the fact is that unless the documentary turns out unmistakably to be a fake, which is highly unlikely, its content demands answers. Nor does it matter how little Ms. Yeung knows about the country of Guyana; the content of the video always asks for answers.

This does not mean that Chinese businessmen have a monopoly on corruption; far from there. If officials accept bribes from them, they will undoubtedly accept bribes from all quarters; it’s just that in the case of the Chinese, it could be on a more industrial scale. At least it’s more organized. The general situation is compounded by the fact that the few autonomous institutions meant to protect Guyanese are being emasculated, from the EPA with the sacking of Dr Vincent Adams, to the sacking of Dr Marlan Cole from the Department of Food and Drugs – although the latter had to perform at the request of local Guyanese businessmen. It took almost two years, for example, to appoint the procurement commission.

It is difficult to prosecute widespread corruption when the country does not have the tools to do so, but for the first time there is now a secret account of what is happening in the Chinese sector. It is now up to the president to avoid the apology and set up a commission of inquiry into what was alleged in the documentary. Its members would largely have to come from outside the country for it to have any credibility, and ideally it should have the cooperation of the Chinese who, under normal circumstances, would not want their nationals to answer in a foreign court. If the Chinese themselves are sincere about fighting corruption, however, there may be diplomatic ways around this.

If the government does not respond to what has been revealed by VICE News, it will have failed in its mandate to the nation of Guyana.