THE director of Guyana’s Local Content Secretariat (LCS), Martin Pertab, said the second application by Ramps Logistics for a local content certificate has been halted, pending the outcome of the company’s matter with the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA).
This was revealed in an affidavit filed in Guyana’s High Court.
In June, Ramps Guyana, a subsidiary of Trinidad owned Ramps Logistics, was denied a local content certificate by the Local Secretariat.
In July, it re-submitted an application.
But with its lucrative five-year contract with ExxonMobil, the huge American multinational oil and gas companies, due to end next month, and no certificate forthcoming despite in its re-application, the company filed for judicial review of the decision by the LCS to deny its first application.
In his affidavit, Pertab said the LCS had received the company’s second application in July and was in the process of reviewing it before Ramps filed for judicial review on September 30.
Pertab said following this “several serious criminal charges have been filed against the Applicant for breaches of the Customs Act, Chapter 82:01 to allegedly defrauded the State of revenues”.
Five days after Ramps Guyana filed the application for judicial review it was slapped with ten charges of false declarations by the Law Enforcement and Investigations Division (LEID) of the GRA.
According to the documents filed by the GRA, it determined, among other things, that during the period of 2021 to 2022, Ramps made several untrue declarations to the revenue authority. The GRA said the move is in accordance with its mandate to ensure there is a “level playing field” for legitimate businesses and the collection of revenue.
Ramps contends that the declaration filed with the GRA was in respect of duty-free imports. It said there are no taxes or duties applicable on the imports, and so, there is no loss of revenue to the GRA.
Pertab said that the GRA’s matter affected the Secretariat’s consideration of its application.
“Further, enquiries revealed that this is not the first time that an allegation of this nature has been levelled against the Applicant. Allegations were made by the Guyana Revenue Authority against the first Applicant in relation to several breaches of the Customs Act Chapter 82:01 to allegedly defraud the State of revenues. The Applicant accepted criminal liability, and opted to pay a settled upon sum of GY$20,000,000 to the Guyana Revenue Authority in lieu of criminal prosecution in February 2022.
“I am advised by my Attorneys-at-Law and verily believe that the above mentioned is an admission of guilt on the part of the Applicant,” the affidavit said.
“I contend that the criminal charges filed against the Applicant are inalienably connected to its activities for which the Application of the Certificate is sought. The Secretariat, in consideration of the criminal charges, has decided to halt the application pending the hearing and determination of the criminal charges against the Applicant. In the circumstances, the Applicant’s application has been put on hold until either the hearing and determination of the criminal charges or a resolution of the matters as was previously done,” Pertab said.
He said the Secretariat has acted reasonably in awaiting the hearing and determination of the criminal charges or a resolution of the matters.
The judicial review matter was heard last Thursday and is currently before Acting Chief Justice Roxane George, SC. It comes up for argument on November 11.
Last Friday, Ramps was in court over its GRA matter.
Shaun Rampersad—who is chairman of Ramps Guyana and CEO of Ramps Logistics (Trinidad)—paid bail of GY$500,000 (TT$16,300) to Guyana’s Supreme Court and entered a plea of not guilty.
The matter was adjourned to November 25.
With the company now embroiled in legal matters and its ability to do business in Guyana now being affected, Rampersad told the Sunday Business: “We have always complied with the law and we are proud of the company we have built in Guyana and the people who have built this company. I am confident the Guyanese courts will bring a fair solution to this matter. We are hopeful justice will be swift.”
At a press conference in June, Rampersad said there has been no reason forthcoming as to why his company was denied certification since it met all the requirements outlined by the Act. His lawyers subsequently wrote to the Secretariat seeking reasons for their denial.
“From the initial look of the letter, it doesn’t look like anything unreasonable. They have made some demands of us. From what I have seen, they are not unreasonable and we are very committed to working with them to have this resolved. I am hopeful we can have this sorted out,” Rampersad told the Express at the time.
A local content certificate is essential for the company to operate in the energy business in Guyana.
The Local Content Act was passed in Guyana in December 2021 to encourage greater participation by Guyanese nationals in the country’s energy sector.
Among the requirements for certification is that the company had to be registered in Guyana, have 90 per cent of its employees from Guyana, 75 percent of its management team to be Guyanese nationals and that it must be 51 per cent owned by a Guyanase national.
Rampersad sold 51 per cent of Ramps Guyana to Deepak Lall, a friend and businessman, who was born in Trinidad but is now a naturalised Guyanase citizen.
Lall’s birth was registered in Guyana in June 2021. His Guyanese passport was issued on September 9, 2021
Lall, a mechanical engineer, is the managing director of the Point Lisas-based Qualitech Machining Services Limited, a machining services, engineering sales and service and project delivery provider in the Caribbean.
He became a shareholder of Ramps Logistics Guyana on March 9 2022, acquiring 51 per cent of the company in newly issued shares, for US$1 million.
Lall told the Sunday Business that as part of the wider Guyanese diaspora, investing in Ramps was his contribution to the country.
Ramps Logistics, a family owned business from Cunupia, expanded into Guyana in 2013, and set up a subsidiary company, Ramps Logistics Guyana.
As a pioneer investor in Guyana, Ramps was “in the right place at the right time” to quote Rampersad, when Exxon Mobil, an American multinational and one of the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas companies, started drilling in Guyana in 2015.
In 2017, Ramps Logistics Guyana was awarded a five-year logistics contract by ExxonMobil to coordinate its operations in Guyana.
Since then, Exxon’s has had 31 oil discoveries in its Stabroek block. In April, the company announced that it found oil in three new wells raising recoverable oil and gas potential from its discoveries to nearly 11 billion barrels.
In November 2021, Exxon issued the tender for logistics arrangements for the next five years.
The submission deadline was January 6, 2022. Ramps contract with Exxon ends next month.
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