– former President could not confirm paymentA recent visit to China by Minister of State Joseph Harmon has revealed that Chinese company, DatangMinister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman speaking to the media on WednesdayTelecom Technology and Industry Group, has already repaid the outstanding US$5 million for Government’s shares in GTT, however, local authorities are yet to find a record of the payment.In 2012, the Chinese company purchased Government’s 20 per cent shares in the local telephone company at the cost of US$30 million from the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL).However, based on an agreement with the then People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration, the company paid off US$25 million and had to two years to make the outstanding payment.Datang failed to repay the outstanding amount within the agreed time and as such, upon its assumption to office, the A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) regime undertook to recoup the monies; hence Minister of State Joseph Harmon’s recent trip to China. During the trip, Harmon was accompanied by NICIL’s Legal Counsel, Natalia Seepersaud.At the post-Cabinet briefing on Wednesday, Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman was asked about the outcome of the visit to which he responded by making the disclosure. “What I can say is that Mr Harmon has been able to retrieve some documents which tell a different story. That story being, of course, that the five million was paid so we are trying to track down to whom, how, where and when,” Trotman revealed to reporters.While the Government spokesperson did not provide much details in relation to the information found on the payment by the Chinese company, he did hint it was made under the previous Administration when he said “that was before May 16, 2015”.Nevertheless, Trotman noted that the Minister of State has provided Cabinet with a full report on the matter while NICIL is also looking into it. “The NICIL board, as far as I know, is considering the findings and that will be made public shortly,” he remarked.It was reported that Datang had refused to make the payments within the stimulated time after it requested to have an additional Director on GTT’s Board. However, the local telephone company rejected the request, saying that based on the amount of shares the Chinese company had, it is only entitled to one Director on the Board.The PPP/C Administration had long maintained that the US$5 million was still outstanding to Guyana. In fact, when contact on Wednesday evening, former President Donald Ramotar, under whose leadership the transaction was conducted, told Guyana Times that he is not aware of Datang making a payment on the outstanding amount. However, he noted that if any such payment was made, it would have been paid to NICIL, with whom they had the transaction.Meanwhile, at a press conference late last year, former Head of NICIL, Winston Brassington stated that efforts were afoot to recoup the monies.Brassington had even defended selling the shares to the Chinese company, explaining that the share-offer was advertised more than 40 times locally and close to 30 times overseas. He added that Government had even written all the embassies and consulates and in the end, the highest offer received was US$7 million.“We did consider the shares to be worth a lot more [than US$7M],” he said. So the sale of US$25 million upfront and US$5 million later was considered a good deal. We had other options from the Chinese which offered less money upfront and more money later. However, the Privatisation Board and the Cabinet accepted the position that maximised the payment up front. It was a good price, we believe,” the former NICIL Head stated.Brassington had also credited the investor being brought via the Guyana Ambassador to China, Dr David Dabydeen.Government used the money collected from the sale to partly finance the construction of the Marriott Hotel. Former CEO Brassington had disclosed that some US$15-US$20 million have been spent on building the Marriott Hotel in Kingston, Georgetown, by the State-owned Atlantic Hotels Inc.One observer noted that if Cabinet was given a full report, and that the purpose of the China trip was to engage Datang, did the Government team obtain from Datang officials evidence of the payment to NICIL? When the US$25 million was paid, it was made by international wire instructions, from one bank to another. The payment into NICIL’s bank account would have been easy to trace.The observer noted that the Government should be more forthcoming on the trip given that Datang is a Chinese state-owned entity and the Chinese Embassy in Guyana is reported to have assisted in making preparations.