Guyana’s main opposition party has complained that the United States State Department has cancelled tourist visas of two active lawmakers facing criminal fraud charges as well as several other high ranking officials who were also indicted with them.
The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) said late Thursday that Dharamkumar Seeraj, head of the opposition-dominated Rice Producers Association and Nigel Dharamlall, the former permanent secretary or the head civil servant at the local government ministry received formal letters indicating that their entry visas had been cancelled this week.
The two and several others were charged in mid May with fraud linked to the alleged theft of millions of dollars from a special rice for oil barter deal with neighboring Venezuela under the PetroCaribe arrangement with Guyana and other Caribbean trade bloc nations.
The party said in a statement that the “consular section is now in receipt of information which it did not have at the time that the visas were granted. All the persons charged have pleaded not guilty to those charges and therefore, are presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
The United States is known to have over the years cancelled the visas of dozens of Guyanese indicted for organized crime, drug trafficking, alien and gun smuggling and other felony crimes. The list had included former PPP security minister and current lawmaker Clement Rohee and late police chief Henry Greene because of suspected links to the underworld.
Dozens of visas of gold miners who are also being investigated for or suspected of smuggling gold to South America, Dubai and other destinations have also been cancelled in recent years. Most suspects find out from airlines when they try to purchase tickets but the PPP said that the two legislators and the others were issued formal letters.
“They have instructed their attorneys -at-law to write to the consular section of the said embassy requesting the new information which it has received. The PPP will pursue this matter as far as is possible,” the statement said.
The PPP has been in opposition since losing general elections in mid 2015 after 23 consecutive years in office. Authorities have set up a special police unit and an asset recovery agency to investigate former high ranking officials for theft and graft. Dozens of others are expected to be charged in the coming months and will likely also lose their visas.