Tue | Jul 23, 2024

US sanctions wealthy Guyanese family members, senior government official

Published:Tuesday | June 11, 2024 | 2:14 PM
Mae Thomas (right) alongside Nazar Mohamed and his son, Azruddin Mohamed. - CMC photo

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC – The Guyanese government on Tuesday said it has sent the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Mae Thomas “on leave with immediate effect” after she was named along with two other Guyanese nationals for their roles in public corruption in the CARICOM country.

The  Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said that in addition to imposing the sanctions on Thomas, Nazar Mohamed, his son, Azruddin Mohamed, and their company, it had also designated two other entities, Hadi's World and Team Mohamed's Racing Team, for being owned or controlled by Mohamed's Enterprise and Azruddin, respectively.

OFAC said that these individuals and entities are sanctioned pursuant to Executive Order 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world.

“Today's action underscores our commitment to holding accountable those who seek to exploit Guyana's underdeveloped gold sector for personal gain,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E Nelson.

“Treasury, in close coordination with our partners in US law enforcement, will continue to take action to safeguard the US financial system from abuse by corrupt actors,” Nelson added.

In a statement, the Guyanese government said it has taken “careful note” of the United States Department of the Treasury informing of the matter involving the three Guyanese nationals.

“Based on the information referenced in the press release, the Ministry of Finance and relevant statutory agencies including the Guyana Revenue Authority, will be requesting additional information on the matters highlighted, with a view to aiding local law enforcement agencies.

“The Government of Guyana takes very seriously the claims contained in the press release and will continue to engage relevant United States entities on these matters. In the meantime, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Ms Mae Thomas has been sent on leave with immediate effect.”

The Irfaan Ali government said that it will continue to work with the United States government “on all matters of mutual interest, including the respect for the rule of law and order”.

The US authorities say gold is one of Guyana's main exports, but it remains a highly fractured industry with small-scale gold mining operations in Guyana occupying a majority share of the country's gold production.

It said these small, family-owned businesses have informal relationships with larger purchasers and traders like Mohamed's Enterprise and that “once mined, Guyanese gold is sold and traded throughout international markets, including the United States, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, and the European Union.

It said that Nazar Mohamed founded Mohamed's Enterprise in Guyana before expanding to the United States as a moneychanger and transitioned into gold trading, growing Mohamed's Enterprise into one of Guyana's largest gold exporters.

In time, Azruddin Mohamed ultimately took over Mohamed's Enterprise, which also now does business as “Confidential Cambio.”

Azruddin and Mohamed's Enterprise allegedly evaded Guyana's tax on gold exports and defrauded the Guyanese government of tax revenues by under declaring their gold exports to Guyanese authorities.

It is alleged that between 2019 and 2023, Mohamed's Enterprise omitted more than 10 thousand kilograms of gold from import and export declarations and avoided paying more than US$50 million in duty taxes to the government of Guyana.

OFAC said that Thomas, while serving as Permanent Secretary to Guyana's Minister of Home Affairs, used her position to offer benefits to Mohamed's Enterprise and Azruddin, among others, in exchange for cash payments and high-value gifts.

“Thomas misused her position to influence the award of official contract bids and the approval processes for weapons permits and passports on behalf of Mohamed's Enterprise.”

OFAC said as a result of the sanctions “all property and interests in property of the designated persons…that are in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC”.

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