Missing US$5M– as NICIL denies collecting outstanding moniesBy Jarryl BryanAfter years of back-and-forth, negotiations for the US$5 million owed by a Hong Kong company for the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T) Company shares it bought are expected to be completed by March of this year.In an interview with this publication, National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited’s (NICIL’s) CEO, Horace James, confirmed that talks are wrapping up. Optimistic of a March deadline for the negotiations to end, James strongly denied that NICIL had collected any of the outstanding money from Hong Kong Golden Telecom Company (HKGTC).NICIL CEO Horace James“Both parties set ourselves by the 15th March for everything to conclude. (So) we’re still in negotiations,” James related. “We await some recommendations, and we have to get approvals; but nothing has been signed between the two parties as yet. Only when everything is fully finalised and agreed… but nothing has been signed,” he explained.“Both parties have made recommendations how we ought to settle the matter. We’re reviewing, and the final decision will have to be made on that. We haven’t received anything. At least they say they will pay something, but we haven’t finalised anything. We’re hoping to get that signed off soon,” James told this publication.Last month, NICIL Chairman Dr Maurice Odle had informed this publication that an interim agreement between the state and HKGTC was in force. He had explained that the state entity was considering collecting the US$5 million in parts — US$3 million first, and negotiations would have continued for the remaining sum.The saleIn 2012, NICIL had disposed of its 20 per cent shares in the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph company in a sale to Hong Kong-based HKGTC to the tune of US$30 million. That company made a downpayment of US$25 million and the outstanding US$5 million was to be paid by October 22, 2014, but this was never done despite written requests from NICIL.Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, and NICIL Legal Counsel Natalia Seepersaud had subsequently travelled to China with the intention of collecting the money, but were informed that the money was already paid.Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman had later announced that Harmon was able to retrieve some documents which showed that the money was paid. But following the controversy this revelation sparked, NICIL later refuted that the money was ever paid.In the confusion that shrouded the transaction, it was even reported that a waiver of the payment was arranged with the Chinese company. This claim was promptly denied by former President Donald Ramotar.Initially, the Government had insinuated that the money was paid to someone else or some other entity other than NICIL prior to the May 2015 elections. But the former President Ramotar had such that such an insinuation is a distraction from “the real issues”, adding that the cantankerous claims of massive corruption under the PPP/C administration have yet to be proven.Meanwhile, former Executive Director of NICIL Winston Brassington in an invited comment on the matter had told Guyana Times he was unaware the outstanding monies were paid to NICIL up until December 31, 2015.“If it was paid, then the seller can easily produce evidence showing this. Payments of this nature are transferred via the banking system (wire transfer) from one bank to another and easy to check and validate. Given that the first payment was wired directly to NICIL’s US dollar bank account in Guyana, I would expect the remaining US$5M to have followed the same course,” Brassington said.