Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
The explosive second video by U.S-based VICE News investigative journalist Isobel Yeung exposes an ugly underbelly of corruption in Guyana. While Vice President (VP) Bharrat Jagdeo assertively dismissed major corruption in Guyana, Su Zhirong, Chinese businessman; (allegedly former) tenant and acknowledged friend of the VP said, not true.
Below is the transcript as reported by Yeung detailing how corruption is allegedly fueled in Guyana.
Yeung– Me and my colleague who I call Mr. Chan presented ourselves as investors looking to get involved in mining, logging and construction. We spent weeks working our way into elite business circles and captured conversations we wouldn’t normally have heard. Eventually we were welcomed to a private country retreat where we met influential business people including one timber exporter who offered us advice on how to best work the system.
Chinese businessman– (speaking English with a chuckle) everything under the table.
Yueng– We were told the person we need on our side is Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, arguably the most powerful politician in the country. He spent 12 years as president and still pulls huge political weight. Outside Guyana he’s been heralded as a climate hero promising to keep his country green even as it drills for oil.
We were told that the person who can get us in the room with him is a man named Su Zhirong. Mr. Su is a long time Guyana resident. He’s one of the country’s biggest landholders in timber and mining with stakes in the fuel industry as well. Because of the concern with COVID Su kept his distance but he was still eager to meet with new investors. He bragged about his influence with the vice president who owns the house he lives in and whom Su refers to as his boss. Su says he can help us in Guyana for the right price.
Su is not the only person to tell us that the service fees these middlemen take are essentially bribes for big deals, reported Yeung. “This is the General Manager of China’s largest state-run construction firm. He confirmed that companies use middlemen to pay these bribes. It is companies like the one he works for, linked directly to the Chinese communist party who win a lot of Guyana’s largest government contracts…It does imply very much that the Beijing authorities know exactly what is going on,” she narrated.
Yeung– Su showed us evidence of his own involvement in multi million dollar deals with Guyana Government and Chinese state run corporation….For our deal Su painted a wide range of investment opportunities. Logging rights, a stone quarry, gold mining and the most promising of all, land in a prime location where a hotel and casino could be built to cash in on the oil boom.
Su says the money we pay him under the guise of legitimate business will actually make it to the vice president….Before we could pay Su and the vice president we would need a way to get large sums of money into the country …..we need a work around. It has been a lot of hints throughout our time here that the way the foreign companies normally get money into the country is through different money launderers that operate here [Guyana]. So we manage to get hold of a couple of those guys who say they are able to transfer huge sums of money into the country and we are going to meet with them now…This man told us…he has personally delivered cash to government officials.
Yeung adopted three roles in her investigative reporting. First, as a potential investor gathering information and being able to break into elite circles after weeks of working her way through contacts. Secondly, as secretary for the undercover businessman, ‘Mr. Chan’ who met Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo. Finally, as the journalist who interviewed Jagdeo in his office. The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), after the journalist interview and apparently to get ahead of the story based on the questions and answers, released the interview done in the VP’s office.
Since the PPP/C returned to government, Guyana has dropped two points in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index which means that Guyana is returning to the days when corruption was rampant. Transparency International once ranked Guyana, during the PPP/C government, the most corrupt English-speaking country in the Caribbean. That stain was being removed under the APNU+AFC government as Guyana was recording steady improvement in combating corruption.
There has been mounting pressure for a credible international inquiry into the award of state contracts and for the VP to resign or President Irfaan Ali request his resignation to facilitate the investigation. Neither the VP nor President has responded affirmatively.
Watch the VICE report