Two and a half year US investigation led to sanctions against Mohameds and PS Mae Thomas -says US Ambassador

Two and a half year US investigation led to sanctions against Mohameds and PS Mae Thomas -says US Ambassador

The US Ambassador to Guyana, Nicole D. Theriot, has revealed that the recently announced sanctions by the US Treasury Department against billionaire Guyanese businessman, Nazar Mohamed, his son Azruddin and Permanent Secretary Mae Thomas, followed a two and a half year investigation by the US Treasury Department, which led the corruption probe.

Speaking to reporters today at the US Embassy in Georgetown, Ambassador Theriot explained that the investigation was very detailed and thorough.

“These sanctions were two and a half years plus of investigations ongoing in the United States. We reserve these type of sanctions for gross levels of corruption and human rights abuses. In fact two days ago, we also levied sanctions on a few Russian financiers in the Ukraine crisis. So this is something that we reserve for very serious crimes, and after two and a half years, it was a whole US Government investigation, and its a very high bar. We do not do this lightly. This is something that we endure we have a preponderance of evidence before we are ready to issue sanctions, and we had that in this case against the three individuals who were sanctioned”, the US Ambassador explained.

Two days ago, the US Treasury Department announced the sanctions against the Mohameds, a number of their companies and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Mae Thomas. The Mohameds were cited for evasion of taxes of more than US$50 million, the under declaration and illegal export of gold, and bribe payments among other alleged acts of corruption. The Permanent Secretary has been cited by the US Government for using her office to become involved in a bribery scheme and other corrupt acts, linked to the Mohamed family.

Ambassador Theriot said the three were targeted in the corruption investigations by the Treasury Department.

“The investigation was specific to these three individuals, and I am not aware of any additional investigations at this time”, she said.

The US Ambassador also confirmed the Guyana Government’s request for more information on the US investigations. She said the request has since been forwarded to the relevant US agencies and she has encouraged the sharing of as much information as could be shared.

“Vice President Jagdeo, along with Finance Minister Singh and the Commissioner General Statia (GRA), have requested officially and in writing the documentation that we used in building the case for these sanctions, and that was requested and I strongly recommended to our partners back in Washington that they provide as much of that information as possible, because I understand that the Government here wants to do their own investigations, and follow up on this, and they are also incredibly concerned about this corruption”, Ambassador Theriot told reporters.

US Ambssador Nicole D. Theriot

The US investigation of the Mohameds and PS Mae Thomas was spearheaded by the US Treasury Department, with a number of other US Government agencies supporting the probe. The Government of Guyana and local Law Enforcement were unaware of the widespread probe that was taking place over a two and a half year period. To the concerns that local law enforcement was left in the dark, the US envoy said “they have to keep the investigations very close hold because they can be compromised by anyone, so we tend to not share a lot of information until the investigation reaches to a certai stage and so I regret that people feel that they were left in the dark, but in the United States, it would be exactly the same way if we were conducting an investigation against someone accused of corruption in the United States”.

Since the announcement of the sanctions, the Mohamed family has remained silent. The Guyana Government through the Bank of Guyana has since revoked the cambio license that was issued to the Mohameds, and the Guyana Gold Board, the Guyana Revenue Authority and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission have launched investigations of their own with regard to the under declaration of gold and the other connected reported corrupt activities, including the bribery of Government officials.

PS Mae Thomas who has been sent on leave from her Government job has resigned from the Central Committee of the governing People’s Progressive Party, and according to Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, she maintains her innocence.

The Government of Guyana has said that it plans to have the relevant agencies conduct detailed investigations of all of the information and reported corrupt activities highlighted in the US Treasury Department report.

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