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Jagdeo raises conflict-of-interest concerns as Hughes refuses to leave law firm despite O&G ties

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–  Says conflicts of interest between 2015-2016 necessitate investigation

The General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, has raised concerns about a potential conflict of interest in Nigel Hughes’ election as the Alliance For Change’s (AFC) leader.

Hughes, an attorney-at-law, has indicated an interest in contesting for the presidency at the upcoming election and has historically had ties to significant entities in the oil and gas industry.

People’s Progressive Party, General Secretary Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Jagdeo’s concerns were triggered by an article published by Demerara Waves, which was headlined “Nigel Hughes will not leave law firm now, despite conflict-of-interest concerns with oil sector,” immediately after being elected leader.

The article, released on June 30, 2024, reported Nigel Hughes’ statement that he would not sever his connections with his law firm – Hughes, Fields and Stoby – which represents ExxonMobil unless elected into the government.

“Every Guyanese should read [the article and] how obscene it is. I can’t convey the feeling of revulsion that I felt. This is someone aspiring to the highest office in the country, who has just been elected the leader of a party,” Jagdeo voiced.

He continued, “He wants to be a presidential candidate…Now I thought when you’re running for office…you have to have some lofty ideals.”

According to Jagdeo, this is typical behaviour of Hughes. He recalled his resignation from the AFC party in 2016 just days before the government began concluding negotiations with ExxonMobil on the 2016 Production Sharing Agreement (PSA).

Expanding on this, he referenced the Clyde and Company report commissioned by the coalition in an attempt to justify that the lopsided 2016 agreement was not deprived.  However, the report revealed some significant information.

“It says that on the 19th of May, 2015, EEPGL sent a proposed escrow process flowchart setting out various sets and timelines for the execution of a new PSA and that is what would become the 2016 agreement. In the period from May 2015, Nigel Hughes was still chairman of the party, the negotiations started, because Exxon, their own report said, sent this document over, proposing a timeline…Hughes lied about this when asked by Global Witness,” Jagdeo informed reporters.

The general secretary also called attention to the Global Witness’s report titled ‘Signed Away’, published in February 2020. In January 2021 the report was withdrawn, but Global Witness, in a statement on the withdrawal, said, “We stand by the integrity of the evidence we have presented.”

Contained in the report is Hughes’ denial of his connection to former Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman, and oil giant ExxonMobil. However, the Guyanese press reported that Trotman became a minister in May 2015 – 11 months before Hughes relinquished his AFC position in April 2016.

“Here is the general secretary of the party, negotiating with Exxon and the Chairman of the party is Exxon’s lawyer. In the PSA and bridging deed, both have listed, as their local offices, his law firm, in both the PSA,” he further revealed.

These damning pieces of information, according to Dr Jagdeo, may require a formal investigation into concerning conflicts of interest.

Meanwhile, as the AFC elects a new executive, Jagdeo pointed out that the party consists of recycled politicians with a history of corruption and questionable actions while holding public office.

The recent PNC/R congress has also raised concerns for Jagdeo due to the extended duration of the elections’ results for the party’s Central Executive Committee (CEC).

He finds it worrying because in a recent PPP congress; despite having double candidates for the elections, the internal results were produced in less than 24 hours.

This could mean that something illegal is happening behind the scenes, or the party is entirely incompetent and directly questions the trustworthiness of the party.

“If you can’t manage your internal elections, if your competitors are saying: ‘you rigged your internal process’, then how are you going to say to the people of this country that you have changed…and you respect democratic norms? He questioned.

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