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The Chinese Embassy had distanced China from allegations of corruption as reported in another US-based VICE News story by investigative journalist Isobel Yeung. Referring to the second release, titled “Undercover in Guyana: Exposing Chinese Business in South America,” the Embassy in a statement, via its spokesperson, said they “want to emphasise that China is a country under the rule of law, and the Government and Communist Party of China apply a zero tolerance policy towards corruption.”
In the VICE report there were Chinese, including businessman Su Zhirong, volunteering and sharing information with Yeung about how “large sums of money” was moving from China into Guyana, via an underground route that avoided taxes and border securities, to bribe government officials. They called this movement “flying money.”
Yeung, posing as a potential investor, could be heard being advised by a Chinese that doing business in Guyana “everything under the table.” Another Chinese, identified by Yeung as the “General Manager of China’s largest state-run construction firm…confirmed that companies use middlemen to pay these bribes.”
The journalist narrated that “It is companies like the one [the general manager] works for, linked directly to the Chinese communist party who win a lot of Guyana’s largest government contracts [and] It does imply very much that the Beijing authorities know exactly what is going on.”
However, the Embassy said “overseas Chinese companies and Chinese nationals are requested to comply with laws and regulations, and actively fulfill local social responsibilities.” No evidence was provided by the Embassy to counter the VICE’s report.
At home, Guyanese whilst aware they are laws and regulations know these are not always respected. Ordinary Guyanese know corruption is rampant and many times laws and regulations are bypassed in carrying out government transactions, and government officials are not without taint in engaging in corrupt practices.
In the 2021 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index report Guyana dropped by two points which means that corruption in Guyana is on the increase. This increased ranking is registered one year after the Irfaan Ali government has been in office.
The VICE story whilst silent on identifying all the government officials allegedly involved in taking bribes, expressly named Vice President (VP) Bharrat Jagdeo. In the report, Chinese businessman Su Zhirong, an acknowledged friend and tenant of the VP whom he referred to as his “boss,” reportedly told Yeung “the money we pay him [i.e. Su] under the guise of legitimate business will actually make it to the vice president.”
Su also escorted the VICE team, posing as potential investors, to the home of the VP where there was an exchange. In that meeting where an inquiry was made about doing business in Guyana, the VP was overheard saying: “No, no, no I’m not getting involved in business. Su is my friend. He gets all the support. Su deals with all the agreements. I don’t. The thing is that my thing is that I’m in government, so I assist from government side.”
The Embassy stated that “Over the past 50 years of diplomatic relations, the China-Guyana cooperation has always followed the principles of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, bringing tangible benefits to the two countries and two peoples. That’s the fact that anyone without prejudice will acknowledge.”