Jagdeo declares war on Gold smugglers

Jagdeo declares war on Gold smugglers

Faced with that Corruption in Guyana report by the U.S Department of Treasury, which highlighted large scale gold smuggling and the bribery of Government officials, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo today declared war on gold smugglers, threatening that the Government of Guyana will be tightening the sanctions to include forfeiture of assets, among other harsh penalties for large scale miners found smuggling.

During his weekly press briefing today, Mr. Jagdeo said that the Government has long been aware of gold-smuggling taking place in the country, nothing that the authorities were even able to pick up on sophisticated methods being used by smugglers to get the precious metal out. 

While he did not state why sufficient efforts were not taken to tackle the problem, Mr. Jagdeo said smugglers might have been emboldened by the small penalty attached to criminal charges here.

“So we may want to take what we do at Customs now and introduce it here for the evasion of gold, not just you pay the forgone but you also have to pay a huge penalty which is in multiples of the evading taxes. So, if you get caught there is a big risk, first of all you get charged under an Act that have severe penalties, secondly there is a big financial risk because you have massive fines and thirdly we may have to start exploring what we did under the Laws dealing with Money laundering or Drug trafficking, forfeiture of assets,” Mr. Jagdeo said.

Mr. Jagdeo also touted closer collaboration with local and international law enforcement agencies in order to arrest the smuggling trade.

“Clearly we have to strengthen the system. How do we deter smuggled gold now?, smuggled gold don’t come through any system because they tried to avoid the taxes which is the royalty payment and the 5% final tax and it could be used for money laundering purposes so we’d have to get help from the receiving countries but we’d also have to strengthen the system of penalties, not against small people but against these big exporters, “the Vice President told a news conference.

In addition, the Vice President said the Government will also have to increase the financial penalties for perpetrators. He said this act has been ongoing for too long and the country has been losing billions in revenue annually. 

He said despite all the Government has been doing for the industry and the incentives given to miners, many miners are still finding it easy to rob the state of its royalties.

“But still no compliance, because the rewards of smuggling seem to be greater. The foregone tax revenue, seems to a big incentive, we have to take away that incentive now by putting a regime of penalties and sanctions if you get caught smuggling the large quantity of gold,” Mr. Jagdeo pointed out.

Further, the Vice President said the government will also be zooming in on gold declared legally and shipped through the system. He said government will have to work closely with other countries to ensure the quantity of gold  declared and the quantity of gold received are the same.

In its report, the US Treasury Department stated that its investigations revealed that the Mohamed family, which is now facing sanctions, was able to move hundreds of pounds of gold out of Guyana illegally by bribing government and customs officials. The report also stated that the Mohameds dodged the payment of more than US$50 million in taxes to the Guyana Government by its alleged actions.

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