‘I left behind a lucrative career to serve the people’ – Jagdeo calls out Hughes’ self-interest

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo and Attorney Nigel Hughes

General Secretary of the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) Dr Bharrat Jagdeo on Thursday called out Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Nigel Hughes for putting his personal interest above serving the citizens of Guyana.

Jagdeo’s comments came days after Hughes said he would not break ties from his law firm – Hughes, Fields and Stoby – which represents ExxonMobil, unless he is elected to the government.

“[Hughes] pointed out [that] there is no law in Guyana to stop politically exposed persons from working for the oil and gas companies, etc., or anyone else,” Jagdeo recalled during a news conference.

However, if this is the case, he noted that himself or any Government Minister or senior official can establish an office and work for ExxonMobil.

Jagdeo said it is sometimes important to give up private benefits for the interest of the people.

“I did not want to return to politics in Guyana. I had started a pretty lucrative career in the period after I left office. But I returned and I lost [money over] it. Sometimes you have to forgo the private benefits, money, basically when national interest calls you,” he noted.

Jagdeo had served as President of Guyana from August 1999 to December 2011. He returned as Opposition Leader in 2015 when his party lost the seat of Government and now serves as the Vice President since the PPP resumed office in 2020.

But Hughes has argued that only if he becomes President will he disassociate himself from the oil company. In the meantime, he said he will not participate in any discussions relating to the oil industry.

“Who would then lead the discussions?” Jagdeo questioned, referring to Hughes’ new role as AFC Leader.

Asked by reporters for his position in a court case where he is representing ExxonMobil against the people of Guyana, Hughes recently stated that he will not compromise his “client’s integrity.”

Jagdeo had previously highlighted that “Nigel Hughes obviously did not read the definition of politically exposed persons in the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act 2009.”

In the Act, a ‘politically exposed person’ is described as “any individual who is or has been entrusted with prominent public functions on behalf of a state, including a head of state or of government, senior politicians, senior government, judicial or military officials, senior executives of state-owned corporations, important political party officials, including family members or close associates of the politically exposed person whether that person is a resident in Guyana or not.”

The AMLCFT Act of 2009 creates, among other things, the obligation for reporting state entities to have appropriate risk management systems in place to determine whether a customer is a ‘Politically Exposed Persons’ (PEPs).

This provision stems from the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) recommendations which states that countries are required to implement legal, institutional and other measures aimed at detecting prominent public functionaries, who may attempt to use their positions of influence to hide illegally obtained funds or assets when conducting business transactions.

ExxonMobil’s Anti-Corruption Legal Compliance Guide applies equally to political candidates as it does to government officials, in accordance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

It states: “Foreign Officials: The term “foreign official” is broadly defined in the FCPA. It means any officer or employee of a non-U.S. government or of any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof, or of a designated public international organisation, or any person acting in an official capacity for or on behalf of any such government or department, agency, or instrumentality, or for or on behalf of any such public international organisation. Public international organisations, for purposes of the FCPA, are designated from time to time by Executive Order of the President of the United States. The current list includes the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the International Red Cross, the World Trade Organisation, and many other organisations. Foreign officials include employees and representatives of non-U.S. government departments or agencies, whether in the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of a government, and whether at the national, state, or local level. Foreign officials also include officers and employees of companies under non-U.S. government ownership or control, such as national oil companies. The basic FCPA prohibitions also apply to any non-U.S. political party, party official, or candidate for political office.”

Meanwhile, it was previously reported that Hughes’ law firm had represented ExxonMobil during its negotiations with the then Guyana Government – the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Coalition – on the controversial 2016 oil contract for the Stabroek Block.

Those negotiations, which started in early 2016, were led by then Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman, who was also holding the post as AFC Leader.

There were claims of conflict of interests between Trotman and Hughes, who was the AFC’s Chairman at the time although he subsequently resigned in April 2016.

The 2016 Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) with ExxonMobil has been heavily criticised with many experts highlighting that Guyana had been short-changed with sweeping benefits going to the US oil major and its partners.

Jagdeo has since hinted at the possibility of launching an investigation into Hughes’ involvement during the negotiation of that contract.

“This may necessitate… a formal investigation into all these matters. I’m making it clear today… It was not an issue before because he would’ve said we’re discriminating against Nigel Hughes and why couldn’t he earn a living. That’s their first thing… What has changed is now he has gone to the AFC [leadership],” the Vice President asserted.


Meanwhile, in December 2018, when the no-confidence motion was passed in the National Assembly against the David Granger Administration, Hughes had sparked a contentious debate, exacerbated by legal and procedural challenges that had significantly delayed the country’s electoral process. Central to this debate was Hughes’ argument that, mathematically, one half of the House when divided stands at 32.5 members. “There is no such thing as a half member, so half of the House is 33 members…this is because you have to round up to identify half of the House,” he had said, mere days after the no-confidence motion was passed. Therefore, he posited that 34 is the majority of the 65-member House rather than 33.

The aftermath of the motion as a result of this argument had been marked by legal challenges, appeals, and judicial decisions that extended beyond the constitutionally-mandated three-month deadline. In June 2019, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) handed down its decision that 33, not 34, was the majority of the 65-member House.