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Chinese Ambassador Guo Haiyan on Monday responded to the explosive U.S-based VICE News report, aired last Sunday, alleging Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo and Chinese businessman Su Zhi Rong (Su Zhirong) engaging in kickbacks (bribes) for contracts to be awarded to Chinese officials. The Ambassador said Chinese businesses operating in Guyana are doing so legally and accused VICE News of trying to strain relations between the two countries.
The reported weeks-long information gathering by investigative journalist Isobel Yeung saw interaction with various persons, including Chinese businessmen who are in the country, about doing business in Guyana. Businessmen have alleged having to pay bribes to be guaranteed projects in the country. A Chinese undercover, posing as a ‘businessman,’ was taken by Su to the Vice President’s home where there was talk about doing business in Guyana. Chinese businesses have reportedly informed Yeung the service fees they pay for contracts essentially serves as bribes for big deals and some of the money gets to the Vice President.
The responses in Yeung’s reporting were not hers. The reporting carried the stories expressed by persons including Su, and the undercover ‘businessman.’ In the exchange Su could be seen showing evidence (paper copy and on phone) of his controlling wealth and influence. He is one of Guyana’s biggest landholders, holding more than 40,000 acres in mining permits. Sue is also said to have businesses in oil, quarry, and prime land that can build a casino and hotel. In the interview viewers could see Su was only too eager to participate, volunteer information, and make known his political connection.
In the interview with the Vice President, Yeung informed him of having evidence of Chinese businessmen making claims that he accepts bribes and it is the only way to get business done in Guyana. A befuddled looking Vice President not only denied the claim but said foreigners come to countries like Guyana to make them look bad. In responding to Guyana’s two-point drop in the International Transparency Corruption Index he said the report of corruption by international organisations “is like a blackness index. The darker you are, the lower you are on the index.”
In the meantime, calls are mounting by the main opposition political parties and civil society for Mr. Jagdeo’s resignation and for credible international investigation into allegations of bribery and the awarding of state contracts. Leader of the Opposition Aubrey Norton yesterday went a step further and called not only for a probe and for the Vice President to resign but if he fails to voluntarily do so, President Irfaan Ali should demand his resignation.
Perceived as the most powerful politician in the country, Jagdeo, two days after the explosive reporting, is still functioning in his capacity as Vice President. President Ali has not said whether the Vice President would retain his position or be asked to step down and if a probe will be initiated. Publicly silent too since the broadcasting of the report is Su, who Jagdeo has since threatened to sue and want to vacate his (Jagdeo) rented property forthwith. Su, in an interview with Mark Benschop on his Straight Up programme, admitted to renting the property in Pradoville II, which is next door to Jagdeo, and said his monthly rent of $1.2 million is paid via cheque.