Bai Shin Lin forestry fraud allegations hit Gov’t radar –those in breach will be brought to account, barring none, says Minister of State

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Minister of State, Joseph Harmon

 

CHINESE logging company Bai Shan Lin, long accused of shady practices in and out of Guyana’s forests, is now the subject of intense scrutiny by the Ministry of the Presidency, under whose portfolio the natural resources sector falls.

Recent widespread accusations of transfer pricing, which have robbed the nation of billions of dollars in lost revenue, are being investigated.

If proven true, the allegations against Bai Shan Lin would have been allowed to be perpetrated only to the extent allowed by the relevant regulatory bodies, namely the Guyana Forestry Commission, and the Guyana Revenue Authority, including its Customs and Excise department.

During a brief interview with the Chronicle last evening, Minister of State in the Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon, confirmed the administration’s interest in the matter.

Over the weekend, the most recent allegations against the logging company surfaced when respected Professor Janette Bulkan accused the company of being in cahoots with the Customs and Excise Department to rob the country of revenue. Bulkan said that export of Wamara logs from Guyana is but one example of the magnitude of the corruption.

Wamara logs were exported from Guyana earlier this year at a price of between US$200 and US$220 per cubic metre, but records in China demonstrate US$500 variance upwards in what is being imported into China.

Dr Bulkan has since called on the administration to launch a forensic audit into the affairs of the sector.

Minister Harmon told the Chronicle that the matter would be investigated, and those found to be in breach of the law will be brought to account, barring none.

In an explosive missive to the media this past week, Dr Bulkan said the US$500 per cubic metre difference in the exports out of Guyana that were reflected as imports into China from Guyana “provides an indication of the scale of Customs fraud, which was estimated for Guyana at US$84 million in 2003, rising almost continuously to US$440 million in 2012.”

Dr Bulkan contends that approximately half of the illicit flows were attributed to export under-invoicing. She also noted that the transfer pricing in Wamara log exports is a very good example of why forensic audits in the natural resources sector are urgently needed.

(Gary Eleazar)