London stops Embassy house sale over “laundering” concerns

London stops Embassy house sale over “laundering” concerns

The British Government through its local High Commission has refused to sell one of its Georgetown properties to a Guyanese businessman over money laundering concerns.

The Bel Air Park, Georgetown house which was once home to the Deputy British High Commissioner was put up on the auction block by the High Commission in Guyana in 2012 as the Commission decided to use a property next door to the official residence of its High Commissioner as the place of residence to his deputy.

An official evaluation on the property was  done and its worth was put at G$53 Million. A Guyanese businessman who operates an auto dealership in Georgetown offered the British High Commission G$110 Million for the Bel Air house. That offer was more than double the estimate for the property and far more than the price tag the Commission expected.

According to sources familiar with the offer, the  sale to the auto dealer was almost complete when the British Government itself raised concerns from London about the source of the man’s money.

The British High Commission in Georgetown was forced to turn down the sale because the British Government was not convinced enough that the businessman’s money was “clean money”.

Like the American Government, the British Government has raised worry about money laundering in Guyana and the failure of the authorities to effectively tackle the problem using legislation that is already in place to file charges against persons who are suspected to be involved in money laundering.

Guyana has been making moves to strengthen its anti money laundering legislation. International agencies and groups have been pressing the government to ensure the laws governing money laundering crimes are tough enough. No one has ever been prosecuted in Guyana under the current anti money laundering laws.

UPDATE: High Commissioner Andrew Ayre in an interview at the British High Commission on Main Street, Georgetown said the reason the sale of the Bel Air property was stopped was because the High Commission was in the process of setting up a trade and investment office and may have needed the property to house the new trade and investment officer.

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FILED: 13th June, 2013

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