Sabrina Valle, Reuters
EnergiesNet.com 10 05 2023
Guyanese mining magnate Nazar Mohamed has pulled out of a consortium hired to build a $300 million logistics base for oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) in the South American country, his partners said on Wednesday.
Reuters had reported in July, citing multiple sources and documents, that Nazar Mohamed and his son Azruddin, owners of Mohamed’s Enterprise, face a criminal probe by U.S. law enforcement agencies into alleged money laundering, drug trafficking and gold smuggling. The Mohameds have denied any wrongdoing.
“We can confirm that the other partners have indeed acquired Mr. Mohamed’s shares in the project,” the NRG Holdings group said in a statement, declining to comment further.
Nazar Mohamed and Azruddin did not immediately respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.
Exxon declined to comment on Mohamed’s departure.
Mohamed’s decision to leave the consortium could reduce complications for the Texas-based company should U.S. authorities decide to levy sanctions on the pair or file an indictment. The United States typically requires companies to halt business with sanctioned individuals within 30 days.
The construction of the shore base is part of Exxon’s efforts to expand oil production off Guyana’s coast, an important part of the company’s growth plans.
An Exxon-led partnership with two other oil firms currently produces about 380,000 barrels per day there. The companies plan to expand output to 1.2 million bpd by 2027, a massive haul that would make Guyana’s production higher than what many OPEC nations, including neighboring Venezuela, produce today.
Following the Reuters report in July, Exxon had made an internal decision to remain neutral on the Mohameds, according to four sources with knowledge of the matter.
Company executives in Guyana, led by country chief Alistair Routledge, told Guyana government officials and other members of the shore base consortium that it would not cut ties with the Mohameds without official notification of an investigation, the sources said.
Asked by Reuters about its position on the Mohameds, Exxon told Reuters earlier this month: “If a member of the Mohamed family is placed on a U.S. sanctions list, we would reassess any contracts which would involve them as a matter of course.”
Exxon previously told Reuters that it complies with all applicable laws and regulations in Guyana.
NRG, which included two other Guyanese business families led by Andron Alphonso and Nicholas Deygoo-Boyer, is a partner in Vreed-en-Hoop Shorebase, Inc (VEHSI), the joint venture that Texas-based Exxon hired in 2022 to build the base.
Jan De Nul, a European builder, is the other joint venture partner.
Nazar was quoted in local media on Tuesday saying his decision to leave the consortium was based on religious beliefs.
U.S. officials had warned Exxon during multiple meetings in late 2021 and early 2022 against doing any business with the Mohameds, saying that Washington had identified concerns and “red flags” with the pair and saying they could not get visas to enter the United States, according to the Reuters report in July, citing two sources.
The officials did not, however, tell the Exxon executives the full details of the criminal probes into the Mohameds because of legal constraints on disclosing information about ongoing investigations, according to sources familiar with the matter cited in the report.
The U.S. government does not disclose ongoing criminal investigations as a standard practice, in part because it could expose U.S. agencies to defamation lawsuits.
“In general terms, it would be highly unlikely for the U.S. government to make a formal notification of a pending criminal investigation,” said Former FBI Acting Unit Chief of International Corruption Unit George McEachern.
reuters.com 10 04 2023