Guyana’s Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday said the government will not take action against a local Exxon Mobil Corp contractor after Reuters reported its owners are under a U.S. criminal investigation.
Last Friday, Reuters disclosed that U.S. government officials repeatedly warned Exxon against doing business with two Guyanese mining magnates who are involved in a logistics operation for the company’s offshore oil operations.
The pair – Nazar Mohamed and his son Azruddin – are under suspicion of money laundering, drug trafficking, and gold smuggling, according to five people with knowledge of the matter and two intelligence reports seen by Reuters.
The Texas-based oil giant ignored the advice, which Reuters said was delivered during meetings in late 2021 and early 2022, and cut a deal to build a $300 million onshore logistics base with a consortium that included the two businessmen. Exxon announced the contract award in April 2022.
In a broadcast media briefing, Jagdeo said the government has not been officially informed of any investigations into the Mohameds.
“The government of Guyana will act on this matter when the U.S. engages it officially – if it engages,” the vice president said. “Right now, we have a story in Reuters, with some allegations.”
It was the first time a government official commented on the report, which also revealed the Mohameds have ties with President Irfaan Ali and some cabinet members.
“President Ali meets a lot of people. I have no doubt that he is friendly with the entire business community, the Mohameds. People go to meet the president all the time, it doesn’t mean they get special treatment,” Jagdeo said.
Guyana has not yet disclosed a date for its first competitive oil exploration round, which has been repeatedly postponed. Officials are reviewing the contract rules before sending them to parliament for approval, he said.
One of the considerations, Jagdeo said, is a financial penalty equivalent to the development costs pledged by bidders in the event their commitments are not met.
(Reuters – Reporting by Sabrina Valle in Houston; Editing by Aurora Ellis)