Published On: Mon, Dec 3rd, 2012

Curaçao gold ‘heist’ might be a hoax

GEORGETOWN, Guyana – As investigations continue into the alleged robbery committed on a vessel that was carrying 470 pounds of smuggled raw gold from Guyana into Curaçao; Guyanese intelligence are trying to authenticate the story told by six crew members.

Guyanese law enforcement officials believe that the gold scam is linked to a recent cocaine bust that was equivalent to the same amount of money as the gold, that is, US$11.5million. An official told Guyana Times that there is no verification that the gold actually arrived at the port in Curaçao as claimed by the crew. The official added that Curaçao is a major transshipment point for cocaine and it is possible that gold was loaded off the vessel, way before it met its final destination.

It is also believed that the gold was supposed to be used as an exchange for the cocaine after it would have arrived at that location. “It is called bartering,” the official added. While it was reported that the boat left Suriname, the official is of the opinion that it left a unrecognised port in Guyana, likely somewhere in the Pomeroon area.

The official, however, stated that the crew ought to be grilled properly by the foreign investigators as law enforcement in Guyana “do not buy the story”. “We are talking about a foreign land… these men claimed that robbers were masked and dressed in police clothing when they carried out the brazen attack… How did they pass through a restricted area and customs and other officials with that amount of goods? Something is fishy and we will get down to the bottom of it,” he added.

It was reported that authorities in Curaçao are in possession of a registration number of one of the getaway cars and are seeking the public’s assistance in locating such, but to date, they are still searching. The six crewmen were allegedly questioned and released, but this publication understands that one crew member identified as Raymond Emmanuel told investigators that they were delivering the gold to an unidentified company in Curaçao. This was not confirmed.

The official also added that if the accusation is correct that the men actually made contact with the authorities about the shipment, it meant that they were in possession of proper documentation and it is likely that the gold board and other agencies must have been aware. It was reported that on Friday, a Guyanese registered boat which was smuggling 216kg (70 bars) of raw gold was robbed by a few men who posed as police officers immediately after the fishing vessel docked in Curaçao. The crew reportedly left Guyana on Monday last and arrived in the Dutch-speaking country on Friday.

On Saturday at a stakeholders meeting in reaction to the incident, Natural Resources and Environment Ministry Robert Persaud reiterated the government’s zero-tolerance approach to gold smuggling during an emergency meeting with stakeholders. Persaud met with the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) and licensed gold and diamond dealers.

The minister stated that the president and the government are very concerned and are treating the report with a high level of seriousness. As such, the government and law enforcement sector will work with concerned international authorities to ascertain the source of the gold. GGDMA President Patrick Harding recalled that all the association’s members have been urged to sell gold to the Guyana Gold Board or authorised dealers.

The ministry has also been seeking to work with Suriname, Brazil and Venezuela to reduce all forms of illegal minerals trade and will continue to work with all stakeholders of the gold industry to ensure that more stringent measures are implemented and enforced to ensure the legal trade of Guyana’s gold is maintained. A special task force, which will include representatives from the GGDMA, law enforcement authorities, Customs and Trade Administration, among other stakeholders, has been put together to review the current regulations so as to prevent the smuggling of gold and other minerals.

Source: Guyana Times

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