US Officials Warned Exxon Mobil about Doing Business with Suspected Criminals in Guyana's Oil Sector
US government officials repeatedly warned Exxon Mobil against conducting business with two Guyanese businessmen, Nazar Mohamed and his son Azruddin, who are currently under investigation by US authorities for suspected money laundering, drug trafficking, and gold smuggling.
The warnings were issued during meetings in late 2021 and early 2022, but Exxon ignored the advice and proceeded to form a consortium with the Mohameds to build a $300 million onshore logistics base, as announced in April 2022.
The Mohameds have strong connections with Guyana's president and certain cabinet members, according to US intelligence reports and sources familiar with their relationships. Given that the government controls access to vast offshore oil reserves in the country, the Mohameds' association with Exxon raises concerns about their potential influence in the sector. Prior to their involvement in the oil industry, the Mohameds primarily focused on gold mining and foreign currency exchange.
US officials are now contemplating imposing sanctions on the Mohameds, which could require Exxon to sever its business ties with any individuals or companies subjected to sanctions. The construction of the onshore logistics base is part of Exxon's broader efforts to expand oil production off Guyana's coast. Currently, an Exxon-led partnership with two other oil companies produces approximately 380,000 barrels per day, with plans to increase output to 1.2 million barrels per day by 2027, surpassing the production levels of many OPEC nations.
Exxon declined to respond to detailed questions regarding the matter but stated that it complies with all applicable laws in its operations. On the other hand, the Mohameds vehemently deny any wrongdoing and assert that they are unaware of any US investigation into their activities or discussions about potential sanctions.
US officials advised Exxon executives against engaging with the Mohameds, citing concerns and "red flags" surrounding the pair. However, due to legal constraints on sharing information about ongoing investigations, the officials did not disclose the full details of the criminal probes to the Exxon executives. Despite these warnings, Exxon proceeded with the deal, signing the construction contract with the joint venture involving the Mohameds.
The close ties between the Mohameds and Guyana's political establishment position them as influential power brokers in the country's business landscape. They have reportedly made substantial donations to Guyana's president's 2020 campaign and have regularly attended government-sponsored events. The Mohameds' political connections raise questions about potential ramifications for international companies seeking to operate in Guyana's thriving oil sector.
Exxon's association with the Mohameds highlights the risks associated with money laundering, drug trafficking, and other illicit activities in the oil industry. The US government's considerations of imposing sanctions on the Mohameds underscore the seriousness of the investigations. Such sanctions could impact Exxon's operations in Guyana. The situation emphasizes the importance of robust due diligence and scrutiny when entering into business partnerships, especially in regions where there are concerns about illicit activities and potential political influence.
By fLEXI tEAM