Former President, Bharrat Jagdeo on Tuesday said the Canadian oil company, CGX Energy, had paid legal fees directly to lawyers for the Guyana government and that company lawyers in fighting the maritime boundary dispute with Suriname at the United Nations Tribunal of the Law of the Sea.
“As President, as far as I am concerned and I am aware of, that no money was paid over to the government of Guyana because there was no signing bonus, there was nothing else of that sort. As far as I am concerned, there was no money paid over,” said Jagdeo who was President at that time.
He was adamant that the CGX financing was not a signing bonus, unlike the US$18 million that ExxonMobil has deposited into a specially created account at the Bank of Guyana.
Jagdeo’s comments came against the background of Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman announcing that government had secured a larger sum from ExxonMobil to finance its legal and diplomatic initiatives for settlement of the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy similar to how the Jagdeo-led administration had taken money from CGX to finance its legal battle at the United Nations Tribunal on the Law of the Sea for settlement of the maritime boundary with Suriname.
Jagdeo said CGX-Energy had a vested interest in settling the maritime boundary dispute because Surinamese gunboats had in June 2000 chased out an oil exploration rig it had contracted to search for oil in a concession awarded by Guyana. “CGX was directly involved in the conflict. It was an aggrieved party. In this case, it’s very different so CGX had to defend its rights too because that’s a publicly traded company so its recruitment and the hiring of lawyers and lobbyists was important to its own concern to resume operations there; very different situation than what we have now; it cannot be comparable,” he said.
Guyana hopes that the United Nations Secretary General would give into its demand to refer the decades-old controversy to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court.
The Opposition Leader hoped that when the David Granger-led coalition administration discloses the contract with ExxonMobil that document would include the agreement concerning the signing bonus. What would be interesting is to see whether the contract provided for a signing bonus too because if it is not in the contract and this was paid into an account that was not recorded in our public revenue, that is even more problematic because it will confirm our suspicions that they intended to steal the money,” Jagdeo added.
Demerara Waves Online News has been told by high-level sources that government asked ExxonMobil for financial aid for its legal and diplomatic initiatives and the only route the funds could have been provided was through a signing bonus.
In confirming on Sunday that the US$18 million were deposited into an account at the Bank of Guyana, ExxonMobil said it had no role in determining how the money should be spent. The company, which hopes to begin commercial oil production in 2020, at the same time hoped that all companies in the extractive industries sector would be made to disclose their financial transactions with Guyana in keeping with transparency rules laid down by the Norway-headquartered Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.