Im­porter who re­cently paid $36m for un­de­clared fuel had been in le­gal wran­gle last year over off­shore de­liv­ery

-cap­tain of ves­sel was fined $10m by GRA

Stabroek News Sunday - - REGIONAL NEWS -

Lyn­will, the com­pany that re­cently paid $36 mil­lion in du­ties to the Guyana Rev­enue Au­thor­ity (GRA) for un­de­clared fuel on the MT Ju­bilee had last year ar­ranged for the de­liv­ery of fuel off­shore, sources and doc­u­ments re­veal, rais­ing con­tin­u­ing ques­tions about its ac­tiv­i­ties in this sec­tor.

That deal ended up in a le­gal wran­gle that saw a $10M set­tle­ment be­tween the cap­tain of the ves­sel and the GRA and a sep­a­rate fall­out and court bat­tle be­tween the lo­cal im­porters of the fuel and their pur­chasers.

Court records show that GRA and boat cap­tain Hilde­brand Laura Vasquez, of the MT At­lantica, reached a set­tle­ment where a $10M fine was paid to the GRA after a de­ci­sion was made to quash a $100,000,000 bond that the tax agency had ini­tially re­quired.

“The afore­said sum is paid and agreed to be ac­cepted by the Com­mis­sioner Gen­eral in con­sid­er­a­tion of the Com­mis­sioner Gen­eral agree­ing to with­draw the de­mand for the de­posit of a cash de­posit by…MT At­lantica of a bond in the sum of $100,000,000 by the afore­said let­ter,” court doc­u­ments seen by this news­pa­per stated.

A sub­se­quent dis­charge let­ter is­sued by the Com­mis­sioner Gen­eral of the GRA, de­tails the pay­ment.

Vasquez would tell the court in an af­fi­davit that he was con­tracted to bring 883,000 gal­lons of fuel, bought at US$1.58 per gal­lon and to­talling US$1,392,140 off­shore of Guyana or Gre­nada for Lyn­will In­ter­na­tional Trad­ing Guyana Inc., and Lyn­will would send out an­other ves­sel to off­load the fuel.

How­ever, Lyn­will did not honour its deal, he said, and he was left stranded at sea with­out food and wa­ter sup­plies. Not hear­ing from his part­ners on when the rest of monies would be re­leased to his com­pany’s bank, he came in-tran­sit to Port Ge­orge­town to re­plen­ish and leave.

“The cargo of diesel fuel aboard the MT At­lantica was de­clared to the Guyana Rev­enue Au­thor­ity as In-Tran­sit be­cause Cap­i­tal En­ergy Cor­po­ra­tion (the ven­dor) had not been paid for it…In any event the cargo was to be de­liv­ered by ship to ship trans­fer in in­ter­na­tional wa­ters out­side Guyana ac­cord­ing to the con­tract dated 24th Jan­uary 2017…The MT At­lantica was forced to en­ter Ge­orge­town with the cargo man­i­festo in tran­sit on Fe­bru­ary 28th 2017, to ob­tain sup­plies of wa­ter and food which had de­pleted,” Vasquez, an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen swore be­fore the court.

Last month, GRA Com­mis­sion­erGen­eral God­frey Sta­tia had told the press that a ves­sel, the MT Ju­bilee, seized by his agency with over 200,000 gal­lons of fuel had brought in the fuel on a Lyn­will li­cence.

“We have boarded the ves­sel un­til such time as the taxes have been paid. What hap­pened is that we rec­og­nized that the fuel was not de­clared and if it was not de­clared well then that is our re­mit so we boarded”, he in­formed when asked about the mat­ter dur­ing a press con­fer­ence held at his Camp Street of­fice.

“[The] own­ers are mak­ing pay­ment ar­range­ments…It was im­ported through a Lyn­will li­cence …Lyn­will has a li­cence is­sued by the GEA [Guyana En­ergy Agency],” he also said.

The MT Ju­bilee was de­tained over con­cerns that the ship­ment had not been de­clared and Sta­tia would later in­form that ar­range­ments were be­ing made to pay some $36M in taxes on it. Those monies were paid, the ves­sel re­leased and the fuel was off­loaded at a lo­ca­tion in Lin­den this news­pa­per un­der­stands.

Sta­tia would also in­form that when the GRA seized such a ves­sel last year the cap­tain was fined $20M.

The MT Ju­bilee was bought by SBF In­ter­na­tional Inc. in May of 2016 when Anand Sanasie, Dor­wain Bess and Roys­dale Forde were the three di­rec­tors of the com­pany.

In­for­ma­tion seen by this news­pa­per also shows that the MT Ju­bilee has jour­neyed mostly be­tween Port Ge­orge­town and Lin­den. It trav­elled be­tween Guyana and Trinidad and To­bago on March 25th this year.

Owner of the ves­sel, Sanasie, would not com­ment on the mat­ter when con­tacted and told this news­pa­per that he prefers the GRA to speak on the is­sue.

Stabroek News reached out to the Com­mis­sioner Gen­eral but he has not re­sponded to queries made.

The GRA has also been mum on its probe of pos­si­ble short­com­ings in the MT Ju­bilee seizure in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Sta­tia had re­vealed that since the in­ter­cep­tion of the ves­sel, the GRA had picked up some faults in its op­er­a­tions and later dis­cov­ered that ef­forts were made to con­ceal them.

“Em­a­nat­ing from that we have found that there are some short­com­ings on our end es­pe­cially at the boathouse and we are

try­ing to fix that par­tic­u­lar end of it. We found that per­sons were try­ing to put the en­try in after the boat was boarded…days after the fuel was not marked”, he had said.

Ac­cord­ing to the GRA head, in ad­di­tion to look­ing at the mar­itime records to see the frequency with which this boat would’ve been com­ing into Port Ge­orge­town, checks are be­ing made with the De­mer­ara Har­bour Bridge to see the “frequency with which these boats have been pass­ing through the Har­bour Bridge and based on the in­for­ma­tion we gar­nered from Mar­itime and from the De­mer­ara Har­bour Bridge we would then be in a po­si­tion to de­ter­mine whether this was ac­tu­ally a hic­cup in the sys­tem or the per­son was try­ing to smug­gle the (fuel)”, he noted.

Ob­servers have ques­tioned why the cap­tain of the MT Ju­bilee was not fined but the cap­tain of the MT At­lantica fined $10M.

Dou­ble stan­dard?

“Why was the cap­tain of the Ju­bilee not fined but there was a high fine on the cap­tain of [MT] At­lantica? Is there a dou­ble stan­dard? What are the guide­lines or laws used in de­ter­min­ing these fines? How is fuel on the Ju­bilee stated as un­de­clared and they did not pro­duce the req­ui­site cus­tom duty forms? Un­de­clared items are typ­i­cally ex­cess goods whereas this seems more like un­cus­tomed fuel, which is it?” one ob­server close to the process ques­tioned.

When the Cap­tain of the ves­sel was last year fined, Forde had said that he was Sec­re­tary of Lyn­will and the com­pany was the owner of the MT Ju­bilee and an­other named PB1. “That the as­sets of the claimant are in­clu­sive of the Ves­sels MV Ju­bilee and PB1 which is val­ued in ex­cess of $400, 000, 000,” he had stated in an af­fi­davit.

And while the MT At­lantica’s Cap­tain had said that he came into Port Ge­orge­town for food and wa­ter sup­plies and would leave be­cause he wasn’t paid in full for the fuel pro­cured by Forde’s com­pany, Forde asked the court to grant an in­junc­tion to pre­vent the ves­sel from leav­ing.

“I Roys­dale A Forde of 77 Had­field Street, Werk-enRust, Ge­orge­town, be­ing duly sworn, make oath as fol­low; that I am the sec­re­tary of the Claimant Com­pany and the mat­ter to which I swear to herein are within my knowl­edge. That on or around the 3rd day of Jan­uary.2017, the claimant and the de­fen­dants en­tered into an oral agree­ment for the pur­chase of diesel. That the de­fen­dants agreed with the claimant that the De­fen­dants would de­liver diesel in any quan­tity in re­spect of any sum paid by the claimant to the de­fen­dants. That the de­fen­dants in­formed the claimant that the de­fen­dants will be able to de­liver 880,000 gal­lons of Diesel upon their ar­rival in Guyana. That the de­fen­dants agreed that they will de­liver diesel to the claimants six days after any ini­tial pay­ment,” his af­fi­davit states.

“That on the 13th day of Jan­uary, 2017, the claimant paid the sum of US$150, 000, that the de­fen­dants did not de­liver the diesel within six days as afore­said. That not­with­stand­ing the fail­ure to de­liver the Diesel as afore­said, the Claimant made to the de­fen­dants the pay­ments as set out afore­said. That the Ves­sel MT At­lantic(a) ar­rived at Port Ge­orge­town on the 28th day of Fe­bru­ary 2017. That on the said 28th day of Fe­bru­ary, 2017, a fur­ther sum of US$90,000 was paid to the de­fen­dants. That on the 7th day of March 2017, a fur­ther $70,320 was paid the de­fen­dants. That on the afore­said oral agree­ment it was specif­i­cally agreed that upon ar­rival in Port Ge­orge­town the De­fen­dants will de­liver a cer­tifi­cate of ori­gin and a cer­tifi­cate of qual­ity as re­quired un­der the Cus­toms Au­thor­ity and by the Guyana En­ergy Agency. That the Claimant re­quested from the de­fen­dants de­liv­ery of Diesel to the value paid by them and they have failed to do so. That we be­came sus­pi­cious of the de­fen­dants mo­tive as com­mu­ni­ca­tion ceased with the de­fen­dants and we pro­ceeded to mon­i­tor the ac­tiv­i­ties of the afore­said Ves­sel MT At­lantic,” he added.

Fur­ther, Forde pointed out that “That on the 10th day of March, 2017, we were in­formed by Boathouse Au­thor­ity that the Cap­tain of the se­cond named de­fen­dants re­quested clear­ance to leave port Ge­orge­town, at 3:00am, on the 11th day of March 2017. That the afore­said clear­ance was granted to the said de­fen­dants to leave Port Ge­orge­town,” and given that they have no as­sets and or com­mer­cial tied to Guyana they should be stopped from leav­ing un­less they are given the value of the fuel they paid for. “Un­less the de­fen­dants are re­strained from de­part­ing the ju­ris­dic­tion …the claimants will suf­fer ir­re­triev­able hard­ship,” he noted while ask­ing the court to grant, “An in­junc­tion re­strain­ing the first named de­fen­dant, their ser­vants, agents, of­fi­cers, Di­rec­tors and or as­signs from caus­ing, per­mit­ting and or in­struct­ing the Cap­tain or of­fi­cers of the Ves­sel MT At­lantic to leave and or de­part from the ju­ris­dic­tion of Guyana….Un­less de­liv­er­ing to the claimant at Port Ge­orge­town, Guyana, diesel to the value of $310,300 which is cur­rently aboard the Ves­sel MT At­lantic.”

In the end, an agree­ment was reached be­tween the MT At­lantica own­ers and Lyn­will but Vasquez and his su­pe­ri­ors claim that Lyn­will still owes for fuel it took.

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