Author: admin

Moonilal goes to court this week

Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley’s law­suit against Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Mooni­lal will be heard in court this week.

He told par­ty sup­port­ers at the PNM’st 48th An­nu­al Con­ven­tion at Shaw Park, To­ba­go, the Op­po­si­tion has been ped­dling fake news and de­scribed as a “mon­strous lie” claims that he had a bank ac­count in Flori­da and had re­ceived mon­ey from AV Drilling.

In his wide rang­ing ad­dress, Row­ley said crime and cor­rup­tion were two of the biggest threats fac­ing T&T and they re­quire a con­sis­tent fight by his Gov­ern­ment.

“Not a white col­lar crim­i­nal has seen the in­side of a jail yet,” he said.

He said his Gov­ern­ment has been go­ing af­ter white-colour crime in Eden Gar­dens, the Port Au­thor­i­ty and the EM­BD, which many viewed as a witch hunt for cheap po­lit­i­cal points.

“But his­tor­i­cal­ly noth­ing ever seemed to be con­clud­ed and per­sons were nev­er held ac­count­able, so I un­der­stand your scep­ti­cism and cyn­i­cism,” he said.

The Prime Min­is­ter said in so­cial cir­cuits and rum shops peo­ple have been say­ing they do not mind if “the Gov­ern­ment thief as long as they run some mon­ey and they could get some­thing.”

He added: “That is what peo­ple are ask­ing you to ac­cept… ask­ing you to ac­cept can­di­dates with crim­i­nal charges over their heads, ask­ing you to ac­cept lead­er­ship in par­ties with peo­ple who are known to have ques­tions to an­swer for the pub­lic trust.”

Row­ley urged the pop­u­la­tion to re­ject in­fec­tions which can lead to the coun­try’s eco­nom­ic stran­gu­la­tion.

Row­ley said some peo­ple feel that on­ly “a thief­ing gov­ern­ment” could per­form to sat­is­fy their needs.

He vowed to lead the fight against white-col­lar crime which he as­sured would nei­ther be “po­lit­i­cal or per­son­al.”

Stat­ing that T&T was faced with a can­cer of cor­rup­tion which was en­rich­ing the lives of many, Row­ley said: “For too long jus­tice did not pre­vail in cor­rup­tion scan­dals. We need to walk this coun­try back to where pol­i­tics is a no­ble call­ing.”

He gave the ex­am­ples of the Curepe In­ter­change and Man­zanil­la High­way projects which un­der the UNC were cost­ing tax­pay­ers $336 mil­lion more than his Gov­ern­ment had ten­dered for.

“How is that pos­si­ble? Ask your­self, where were that $336 mil­lion dol­lars go­ing?” he asked.

He al­so list­ed six projects—the Point Fortin Hos­pi­tal, Red House, White Hall, San­gre Grande Hos­pi­tal, Pres­i­dent’s House and Bri­an Lara Crick­et Sta­di­um—which the PNM had re-ten­dered when they took of­fice in 2015. Those projects are now cost­ing tax­pay­ers $1.565 bil­lion less.

He said in a bid to stop cor­rup­tion, the Whistle­blow­er Pro­tec­tion Bill was laid in Par­lia­ment and went be­fore a com­mit­tee. How­ev­er, he said, the Op­po­si­tion re­ject­ed, de­layed and ob­ject­ed to the leg­is­la­tion and it was tak­en out of com­mit­tee.

“We will get it to the floor for de­bate with a spe­cial ma­jor­i­ty and oth­er amend­ments they want­ed and we will put it to the vote at the ear­li­est op­por­tu­ni­ty. By the end of March we will have our Par­lia­ment vote on that.”

On the is­sue of cam­paign fi­nance re­form, Row­ley said since 2011 the PNM has been the on­ly po­lit­i­cal par­ty which has been co-op­er­at­ing in ef­fort to en­act leg­is­la­tion.

He said leg­is­la­tion would be in­tro­duced next year with the ex­pec­ta­tion that it will be en­act­ed well ahead of the 2020 gen­er­al elec­tion.

“We have in­volved the courts and the po­lice. Many mat­ters are en­gag­ing law en­force­ment and that ex­plains the be­hav­iour dis­played by some of my par­lia­men­tary col­leagues and their en­ablers,” he said

Row­ley, who de­vot­ed a size­able por­tion of his ad­dress to “threats post­ed on so­cial me­dia”, said lo­cal news­rooms were “flood­ed with a con­stant di­et of mis­in­for­ma­tion and fake news from idle for­mer UNC mil­lion­aire min­is­ters and their paid agents and un­der­lings work­ing over­time to shape the na­tion­al psy­che af­ter their own like­ness and im­age.”

Row­ley urged ed­i­tors to do fact check­ing be­fore sto­ries go pub­lic.

Petrotrin refinery safely shut down and its assets vested to new entities

There has been a safe, in­ci­dent-free shut­down of all Petrotrin re­fin­ery op­er­a­tions and preser­va­tion and “moth­balling” of units is now in progress.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Colm Im­bert con­firmed this sta­tus of Petrotrin op­er­a­tions in Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day, dur­ing de­bate on leg­is­la­tion to vest as­sets, un­der­tak­ings and oblig­a­tions of Petrotrin in­to three com­pa­nies which will com­prise the re­struc­tured en­ti­ty: Her­itage Pe­tro­le­um Co Ltd, Paria Fu­el Trad­ing Co Ltd and Guaracara Re­fin­ing Co Ltd. These were in­cor­po­rat­ed on Oc­to­ber 5 to man­age new busi­ness­es.

Her­itage Pe­tro­le­um will man­age ex­plo­ration and pro­duc­tion and hold re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for all E&P as­sets, in­clud­ing con­tracts, with rev­enue gen­er­at­ed through crude sales and crude stor­age.

Fu­el trad­ing and prod­uct sup­ply ac­tiv­i­ties will be un­der­tak­en by Paria Fu­el, which will al­so be re­spon­si­ble for lo­gis­tics, ter­mi­nalling and prod­uct han­dling. It’s ex­pect­ed to work close­ly with Her­itage Pe­tro­le­um.

Guaracara Re­fin­ing Com­pa­ny Lim­it­ed will be re­spon­si­ble for the preser­va­tion of re­fin­ery as­sets and pro­vid­ing util­i­ty ser­vices to Paria Fu­el Trad­ing and Petrotrin. The lat­ter will re­main in ex­is­tence and con­tin­ue op­er­at­ing al­though its ma­jor op­er­a­tions will cease on No­vem­ber 30.

On ces­sa­tion of re­fin­ery ac­tiv­i­ties, Im­bert said, “The last im­port­ed crude car­go was dis­charged Oc­to­ber 10, 2018, and crude pro­cess­ing at the re­fin­ery ceased on Oc­to­ber 19, 2018. The last process unit (FC­CU) was shut down on No­vem­ber 3, 2018, and re­fin­ery preser­va­tion and moth­balling is in progress.

“The Sul­phuric Acid re­gen­er­a­tion is still in ser­vice to con­vert all spent acid to fresh acid in sys­tem as part of the preser­va­tion ex­er­cise. The fresh acid would be sold lo­cal­ly for use in wa­ter treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties.”

Im­bert said the first car­go of lo­cal crude was suc­cess­ful­ly ex­port­ed on No­vem­ber 1, 2018.

On fu­el im­por­ta­tion, Im­bert added, “Through com­pet­i­tive bid­ding process in which rep­utable in­ter­na­tion­al sup­pli­ers were in­vit­ed, Petrotrin has so far se­cured four car­gos of gaso­line, jet fu­el and diesel which have al­ready been dis­charged at Pointe-a-Pierre over the end Oc­to­ber to ear­ly No­vem­ber,” he said.

“As part of its strat­e­gy to main­tain se­cu­ri­ty of sup­ply, Petrotrin main­tained ap­prox­i­mate­ly 14 days of sup­ply ex-re­fin­ery pro­duc­tion, thus af­ford­ing seam­less sup­ply of fu­el to lo­cal/re­gion­al mar­kets. A to­tal of 16 car­gos have been con­tract­ed that cov­ers sup­ply un­til ear­ly Jan­u­ary.”

As re­fin­ery op­er­a­tions are wound down, he said the start of the new cor­po­rate struc­ture must be ef­fect­ed to en­sure op­er­a­tion of the three com­pa­nies by De­cem­ber 1. He said the vest­ing pro­ce­dure is the same as was used in the 1990s when Trin­toc and Trin­topec’s as­sets were vest­ed with Petrotrin. Im­bert added it would have been too cost­ly, com­pli­cat­ed and would have de­layed start­up if tra­di­tion­al con­veyanc­ing mech­a­nisms were used.

All of Petrotrin’s is­sued/out­stand­ing shares and those in the new com­pa­nies have been trans­ferred to a new hold­ing com­pa­ny, Trinidad Pe­tro­le­um Hold­ings Lim­it­ed.

“Petrotrin re­mains op­er­a­tional as a mem­ber of the group of sub­sidiaries held by TPHL. This will al­low Petrotrin to meet out­stand­ing con­trac­tu­al li­a­bil­i­ties un­hin­dered and will elude the pos­si­bil­i­ty of Petrotrin bond­hold­ers im­pos­ing a re­quire­ment that they ap­prove the new struc­ture,” Im­bert added.

Im­bert al­so de­tailed progress in re­fi­nanc­ing Petrotrin’s US$850 mil­lion bond, due Au­gust 2019 – among prob­lems Gov­ern­ment cit­ed in jus­ti­fy­ing re­fin­ery clo­sure. He said Petrotrin ap­proached fi­nan­cial mar­kets in Oc­to­ber for a firm or con­sor­tium to re­fi­nance its long-term bonds payable in Au­gust 2019 and 2022.

“Four re­spon­dents were short­list­ed and in­vit­ed to present pro­pos­als on Oc­to­ber 15 to a team led by two of Petrotrin’s di­rec­tors and chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer. It was de­cid­ed two of the con­sor­tiums would work to­geth­er to ex­e­cute what was es­sen­tial­ly the fi­nanc­ing of a com­bi­na­tion of the Petrotrin ex­it costs as well as the two bonds,” he said.

“Con­sor­tiums com­prise Cred­it Su­isse, BladeX and FCB plus the team of Mor­gan Stan­ley and Ansa Mer­chant Bank. Over re­cent weeks, progress was made with re­fi­nanc­ing and they’re work­ing to­wards hav­ing the first tranche of the ex­it costs set­tled by No­vem­ber 30, 2018, and the bonds re­fi­nanced soon af­ter – well in ad­vance of the ter­mi­nal dates.”

CoP Gary Griffith is T&T’s very own Superman

Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Gary Grif­fith likened him­self to Su­per­man on Wednes­day, as he stat­ed that his “kryp­tonite”, or main weak­ness, is get­ting con­crete ev­i­dence to con­vict peo­ple who are known crim­i­nals.

“If you can’t ex­plain your wealth it gives me some­thing now that will take away my kryp­tonite be­cause peo­ple know how to beat the sys­tem,” Grif­fith said at the launch of an An­ti-Gang Train­ing sem­i­nar host­ed by the US Em­bassy, ti­tled ‘Best Prac­tices in In­ves­ti­gat­ing Gang-Re­lat­ed Ac­tiv­i­ty” at the Po­lice Acad­e­my in St James.

“Every­one claims they know who the crim­i­nals are, they know who the gang lead­ers are, they know who the gang mem­bers are, they know where the drugs are com­ing from, but it’s easy to say, it’s easy to have in­for­ma­tion, it may be easy to have in­tel­li­gence,” Grif­fith said.

“That dif­fer­ence from in­tel­li­gence to ev­i­dence for con­vic­tion that is where the prob­lem lies, and it hurts me, it re­al­ly hurts me in the two months that I am here where we know for a fact we have every­thing to pin­point who is a gang mem­ber, who would have pressed that trig­ger,” he said.

“Get­ting in­for­ma­tion and hear­ing per­sons stat­ing that they are see­ing the body twitch­ing and you can’t ar­rest the per­son be­cause of that dif­fer­ence of in­tel­li­gence and ev­i­dence and this sem­i­nar will help us tremen­dous­ly in mak­ing sure we can shift from that in­tel­li­gence to turn to ev­i­dence,” Grif­fith said.

US Am­bas­sador to Trinidad and To­ba­go Joseph Mon­del­lo ex­pressed his in­ter­est in con­tin­u­ing to part­ner with lo­cal law en­force­ment to bring gang mem­bers to jus­tice and en­sure safe­ty and se­cu­ri­ty for all cit­i­zens.

Grif­fith was laud­ed by At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Faris Al-Rawi and Jus­tice Gillian Lucky for his work so far as com­mis­sion­er.

“In the fight against crime there must be a co­or­di­nat­ed and com­pe­tent ap­proach by all the en­ti­ties in­volved in law en­force­ment,” Lucky said.

“The Trinidad and To­ba­go Po­lice Ser­vice is un­doubt­ed­ly the flag­ship in this fight and the pub­lic must be able to re­pose the ut­most trust and con­fi­dence in the or­gan­i­sa­tion that is man­dat­ed to pro­tect and serve all law-abid­ing cit­i­zens.”

“This trust and con­fi­dence, how­ev­er, must be earned and I am there­fore pleased that over the past few weeks the na­tion has wit­nessed a re­newed strength, vi­tal­i­ty and fo­cus in the op­er­a­tions of the Trinidad and To­ba­go Po­lice Ser­vice,” she said.

“Com­men­da­tion must be giv­en to the new com­mis­sion­er of po­lice Mr Gary Grif­fith who in record time has been able to mar­shal his forces and to send the pow­er­ful mes­sage that those who break the law will be un­earthed and be made to face the due process of the law,” Lucky said.

Al-Rawi con­grat­u­lat­ed Grif­fith for the an­nounced merg­er of the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Bu­reau, the An­ti-Cor­rup­tion In­ves­ti­ga­tions Bu­reau, the Fraud Squad and the Cy­ber Crime Unit, say­ing that the move will strength­en the TTPS’s abil­i­ty to tar­get gangs through their fi­nan­cial re­sources.

SEPT 2010- Smelter Project Cancelled

On September 8th, 2010, the People’s Partnership announced that it was cancelling a $600 million project to build a 125,000 tonnes-per-year aluminum smelter. This never happened.

“In addition to the health and environmental risk, there is also serious concern as to Alutrint’s viability and the optimal use of our gas. This project shall cease,” the then Finance Minister Winston Dookeran said during a presentation of the 2010-2011 national budget.

Brazilian conglomerate Votorantim Group has a 40 percent stake in the proposed 125,000 metric-tonnes-per-year aluminum smelter complex while the Trinidad and Tobago government held the remaining 60 percent.

ChinaExim Bank was providing a credit facility of $400 million for construction of the project.

The cancellation of the Alutrint smelter complex effectively ended a court battle over the project.

The Environmental Management Authority had issued a Certificate of Environmental Clearance to Alutrint for the project. But a court quashed the certificate after anti-smelter groups and individuals filed for judicial review, claiming the EMA’s decision was based on inadequate and flawed information.

EMA’s appeal of that ruling was rendered moot by the decision taken on September 8th, 2010.

An ex­am­i­na­tion a Cab­i­net note of Ju­ly 16, 2010, on the eco­nom­ics of Alutrint, re­vealed the plant would have been prof­itable if it was com­plet­ed. But the Cab­i­net note re­vealed that the cost of en­er­gy to the smelter was out­weighed by the ben­e­fits the coun­try would reap.

In terms of gas util­i­sa­tion:

Alutrint would have paid US$0.85 per mmb­tu.

“The Alutrint smelter will con­sume 46.5 mil­lion cu­bic feet a day which rep­re­sent 1.1 per cent of to­tal dai­ly nat­ur­al gas con­sump­tion. This 1.1 per cent in­cludes nat­ur­al gas con­sumed by the pow­er plant for Alutrint’s pow­er re­quire­ments. “When com­pared to oth­er gas based in­dus­tries, the Alu­minum in­dus­try presents a fa­vor­able in­vest­ment (in terms of Capex) per unit quan­ti­ty of gas utilised, as well as a high di­rect em­ploy­ment and in­dus­try-com­pet­i­tive re­turn on in­vest­ment. The alu­mini­um in­dus­try is unique in terms of its po­ten­tial for ex­pan­sive down­stream in­dus­tries. Re­turns on in­vest­ment nor­mal­ly in­crease no­tably with the in­cor­po­ra­tion of down­stream in­dus­tries,” the note stat­ed.

In terms of the en­vi­ron­men­tal and health im­pact:

“Alutrint has re­duced and/or mit­i­gat­ed the en­vi­ron­men­tal risk lev­els from these ef­flu­ents and waste prod­ucts by the pro­vi­sion of the buffer zone, the de­sign of the smelter, use of im­port­ed pre­baked an­odes and ex­port of the spent pot lin­ers. The com­pa­ny at­tained the en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards set by the EMA, in­clud­ing the HF stan­dard on one mi­cro­gram, for the ini­tial pro­pos­al for the one pot line. How­ev­er, with two pot­lines the com­pa­ny will be un­able meet the HF stan­dard of one mi­cro­gram. This will jeop­ar­dise the project and the pro­posed joint ven­ture with Vo­toran­tim.”

How would it have benefitted Trinidad and To­ba­go?

a) The cre­ation of 700 di­rect jobs with the po­ten­tial of 2100 in­di­rect jobs (Com­mu­ni­ty) and 7000 jobs (down­stream),

b) Down­stream de­vel­op­ment,

c) Gas util­i­sa­tion: en­er­gy mon­eti­sa­tion for lo­cal busi­ness de­vel­op­ment,

d) Trans­fer of tech­nol­o­gy: the Chi­nese tech­nol­o­gy is one of the most ad­vanced in the alu­mini­um in­dus­try. T&T would have ben­e­fitted from us­ing the most ef­fi­cient and clean­est tech­nolo­gies in alu­mini­um smelt­ing.

e) In­fra­struc­tur­al de­vel­op­ment: port, road net­works, ed­u­ca­tion and health fa­cil­i­ties

f) Po­ten­tial Cari­com link­ages: sup­ply of in­put ma­te­r­i­al (alu­mi­na from baux­ite); al­so mar­kets for alu­mini­um val­ue added prod­ucts and

g) In­ter­na­tion­al Ex­port Mar­ket: lever­ag­ing ac­cess to ex­ter­nal mar­kets through in­ter­na­tion­al part­ners (share­hold­ers) eg Latin Amer­i­ca and Chi­na.

The costs for project ter­mi­na­tion fell in­to two cat­e­gories:

One-time Costs

1. Sep­a­ra­tion costs for cur­rent em­ploy­ees of Alutrint: US$0.5 mil­lion

2. To en­gi­neer­ing, pro­cure­ment and con­struc­tion con­trac­tor, Chi­na Na­tion­al Ma­chin­ery and Equip­ment Im­port and Ex­port Cor­po­ra­tion (CMEC), for ter­mi­na­tion:

a. Amounts payable for any work car­ried out: US $7 mil­lion

b. Cost of plant and ma­te­ri­als or­dered for the works de­liv­ered to CMEC: con­tin­gent li­a­bil­i­ty

c. Any oth­er cost or li­a­bil­i­ty which in the cir­cum­stances was rea­son­ably in­curred in the ex­pec­ta­tion of com­plet­ing the work-con­tin­gent li­a­bil­i­ty

d. Cost of re­moval of tem­po­rary works and con­trac­tor’s equip­ment from the site and re­turn of items to Chi­na: US$1 mil­lion

e. Cost of repa­tri­a­tion of CMEC’s work­ers em­ployed in con­nec­tion with the works at the date of ter­mi­na­tion: US$1 mil­lion

3. Project agree­ment with Vo­toran­tim: US$5.7 mil­lion

4. Joint Ven­ture with Sur­al: no cost but sub­ject to lit­i­ga­tion

5. Loan agree­ment with EX­IM Bank of Chi­na: es­ti­mat­ed cost was to be pro­vid­ed by Min­istry of Fi­nance

Re­cur­rent Costs

1. Land lease to Na­tion­al En­er­gy Cor­po­ra­tion: US$1.9 mil­lion

2. Elec­tric­i­ty pur­chase oblig­a­tion to the Trinidad Gen­er­a­tion Un­lim­it­ed: US$33 mil­lion ($209 mil­lion)

3. Rental of pier and stor­age fa­cil­i­ties: US$9.6 mil­lion

To­tal cost of oblig­a­tions: US$44.5 mil­lion

Na­tion­al En­er­gy Cor­po­ra­tion

Tasked with the pro­vid­ing the in­fra­struc­tur­al re­quire­ment for the Alutrint project, the NEC has fi­nan­cial ex­po­sure in the sum of $922 mil­lion as fol­lows:

1. Loan from Na­tion­al Gas Com­pa­ny for de­vel­op­ment of Union Es­tate: US$58mil­lion

2. Loan from NGC for es­tab­lish­ment of port, stor­age and han­dling fa­cil­i­ties at La Brea: US$82 mil­lion

3. Debt to Hous­ing De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion for con­struc­tion of hous­es for Square Deal house­holds: US$5.6 mil­lion

Con­tracts Af­fect­ed

Of 18 con­tracts signed, two have been com­plet­ed and 16 are af­fect­ed:

1. Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing GORTT/ Peo­ple Re­pub­lic of Chi­na: no di­rect cost im­pact

2. Share­hold­er’s Agree­ment GORTT/Sur­al: The Gov­ern­ment is seek­ing to ter­mi­nate agree­ment with Sur­al, price is un­der ne­go­ti­a­tion

3. Buy­er’s Cred­it Loan Agree­ment: GORTT/Chi­na EX­IM Bank

4. Gov­ern­ment Con­ces­sion­al Loan Agree­ment: GORTT/Chi­na EX­IM Bank: This agree­ment ex­pired at the end of May 2010 and an ap­pli­ca­tion was made to ex­tend the term of the con­ces­sion for a fur­ther six months. A re­sponse was be­ing await­ed.

5. Project Agree­ment: GORTT/Vo­toran­tim Met­als: ex­pired in Sep­tem­ber 2010. No di­rect fi­nan­cial ex­po­sure oth­er than costs in­curred dur­ing the pe­ri­od of the project agree­ment.

6. En­gi­neer­ing, Pro­cure­ment and Con­struc­tion Agree­ment: Alutrint/CMEC. This con­tract was signed on De­cem­ber 2005.

7. Tech­ni­cal Spec­i­fi­ca­tion to EPC Con­tract (re­vised): Alutrint/CMEC–no cost im­pact

8. Ba­sic En­gi­neer­ing and Equip­ment Pro­cure­ment Re­view Agree­ment: Alutrint/Chi­na Met­al­lur­gy In­dus­try Ser­vices Co: may have a cost im­pact but can’t be quan­ti­fied at this time.

9. Cer­ti­fied Ver­i­fi­ca­tion Agent: Alutrint/ABS Con­sult­ing: no cost im­pact

10. Ch­agua­nas Of­fice Build­ing Lease: Alutrint/On­line Tech­nol­o­gy: Con­tract ter­mi­nated in Feb­ru­ary 2011

11.Im­port Du­ty Con­ces­sion: GORTT/Alutrint: no cost im­pact

12. Gas Sales Agree­ment: Alutrint/Na­tion­al Gas Com­pa­ny of T&T

13. Land Lease Agree­ment: Alutrint/Na­tion­al En­er­gy Cor­po­ra­tion: an­nu­al lease rent US$ 1.9 mil­lion

14. Dock & Ma­rine User Agree­ment: Alutrint/Na­tion­al En­er­gy Cor­po­ra­tion–these two com­bined re­sult in an an­nu­al cost of $11 mil­lion by Alutrint to NEC.

15. Wa­ter Sup­ply Agree­ment: Alutrint/Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Au­thor­i­ty: no cost im­pact

16. Pow­er Pur­chase Agree­ment: Alutrint/T&TEC /Trinidad Gen­er­a­tion Un­lim­it­ed: take or pay oblig­a­tion of US$33 mil­lion a year.

As of January 2014, the Government was facing a US$100 million claim in the United States from the minority shareholder of the US$400 million Alutrint smelter plant—Venezuelan company Sural—as a consequence of the previous administration’s decision to cancel the smelter plant.

“This office has been advised that the minority shareholder in the Alutrint plant … is currently exercising its right under the contract to arbitration wherein it is making substantial claims against the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for its arbitrary cancellation of that contract. My information is that this arbitration is taking place in the United States and that the claims being made are well upwards of US$100 million, being prosecuted by high-quality lawyers of the minority shareholder,” said PM Keith Rowley.

As of October 2017, the Government had entered into a multimillion-dollar joint private-public sector initiative as it moves to revive the aluminium smelter project that had been shelved in September 2010.

The Government said that it is injecting TT$35 million (one TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) into the project with Alutech Limited, with Energy Minister Franklin Khan indicating that it would be a 60/40 arrangement.

Khan said that previous People’s National Movement (PNM) administrations had intended to get involved in the aluminium industry, adding that this was the rationale behind the aluminium smelter plant which was cancelled by the previous Government.

“However, we still feel we can salvage a downstream aluminium industry based on imported elements,” he said, noting that the aluminium industry was lucrative.

“Strange enough, over this time of depressed commodity prices, one of the few prices in the world that have not been depressed is aluminium and that is largely because of the motor car industry and aluminium wheels which have now become ubiquitous throughout the motor car industry,” he said, telling legislators that the scheme is a small investment.

PM Dr Keith Rowley told the Parliament’s Standing Finance Committee then that the State had been dealing with various claims made against it following the decision by the last Government to end the smelter plant project.

“There is some settlement with respect to the closure of the project where the minority partner would have had claims against the State.

“Those matters are still in negotiations; however, both parties have agreed to go forward and some of the settlement considerations would be taken into account.”

But Rowley told legislators, “This is not the end of it. We are in discussions with the Chinese Government with respect to settlement of another claim with respect to the closure and abandonment of the smelter project that is a much larger sum.”

He added that “the failures and the arbitrations and the liabilities we are dealing with… are as a direct result of the UNC shutting down the aluminium project which started with a smelter and down streaming”.

He said the smelter project was being financed by the Chinese Import/Export bank, noting “we have liabilities there”. He also said that equipment worth US$40 million “had been in a warehouse ever since”.

“What we are trying to do now is to restart the project so as to save the down streaming side based on imported inputs since we have killed the smelting side of it.”

Griffith turns TTPS intelligence-driven

CoP Gary Griffith is convinced the introduction of new and innovative policies, some of which are intelligence-driven, have contributed in a meaningful way to a decrease in homicides between September and October.

Up until yesterday, the murder toll stood at 459. Griffith said every effort is being made to reduce homicides.

The new anti-crime initiatives worked well when he assumed office, he said, and he believes that with more policies being rolled out, the country will reap the desired results. Griffith says the level of murders can only change with the transformation of the police. “It cannot just be more patrols, more roadblocks. I am turning the TTPS into an intelligence-driven one,” Griffith said, adding that the ultimate barometer of a country’s crime status is homicide.

He said in every situation there will be some loopholes but the intention is to plug those loopholes to make the country safer. “I cannot reveal some of the intelligence-driven initiatives introduced to deal with murders, but I can assure the country that they will see some results,” he promised.

He said there had been a reduction every month for the past three months and his intention is to get back to “acceptable levels” of fewer than 150 murders a year, which was the case way back in 2000 and 2001. He recalled that in May, June and July this year homicides increased compared to last year: “about 17 per cent for May, 20-something per cent in June and 50-something per cent in July.” In August, there was a five per cent reduction in homicides, 23 per cent in September and for October, a 27 per cent reduction.

“So there has been a drastic reduction compared to last year when (the annual figure) was 495.”

He is “ fighting heavily now,” he said, “because we have a system which has not been the appropriate method to deal with curbing homicides.”

Griffith also said more intelligence-driven policing, as well as Tasers and pepper sprays, body cameras for police, the revamping of the E999 system, cameras in police vehicles, a new cold case unit, better customer training for police are among the policies which will help them and the country. Criminologist Prof Ramesh Deosaran did not wish to comment yesterday on the spike in murders. He said it needed to be carefully analysed before any comment is made and promised to do so at a later date.

There has also been a re­cent an­nounce­ment of a new elite unit to tack­le white-col­lar crime in T&T and promis­es that the “Big Fish” will be ar­rest­ed and brought to jus­tice. Grif­fith is as­sur­ing that it will not be a unit en­gag­ing in witch-hunt.

The Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Di­vi­sion (FID) with sub­units from Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Bu­reau, Fraud Squad, Pro­fes­sion­al Stan­dards Bu­reau, el­e­ments of Or­gan­ised Crime In­tel­li­gence Unit, and Cy­ber Crime Unit will be merged to form the new unit to tackle white-collar crime. This unit is to en­sure a more ef­fec­tive arm of the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice (TTPS) to deal with such crimes and at a faster ba­sis.

It would al­so en­sure bet­ter shar­ing of da­ta be­tween these units and like­wise, be­tween TTPS and oth­er units in the Min­istry of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty.

Griffith said that he intends to ac­quire lo­cal and in­ter­na­tion­al ex­per­tise to im­prove the ca­pa­bil­i­ty of this di­vi­sion. He also plans to do a mas­sive in­jec­tion in our le­gal de­part­ment by ap­point­ing a head of the Le­gal De­part­ment and a few oth­ers to en­sure that TTPS tight­ens up to pre­vent any loop­holes that can be used by per­sons if charged, as well as an in­ter­na­tion­al pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al team to do like­wise.

Griffith states that while the TTPS is an independent body, they need to li­aise with dif­fer­ent ex­ter­nal agen­cies to max­imise our ef­fec­tive­ness, in­clu­sive of the NSC, Chief Jus­tice, DPP, PCA, and of­fice of the AG.

14 Coast Guard interceptors back up and running soon

The T&T Coast Guard’s will re­gain use of more in­ter­cep­tor ves­sels for in­creased bor­der se­cu­ri­ty and the po­lice are get­ting premis­es to call “home.”

Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young an­nounced these de­vel­op­ments at yes­ter­day’s post-Cab­i­net me­dia brief­ing.

Com­ment­ing on the re­cent dis­cov­ery of il­le­gal im­mi­grants en­ter­ing T&T through Los Iros and pos­si­bly oth­er il­la­gal ports of en­try, Young said he’d since asked au­thor­i­ties for struc­tures and plans to in­crease bor­der se­cu­ri­ty.

Con­se­quent­ly, bor­der se­cu­ri­ty ini­tia­tives will in­volve get­ting 14 Coast Guard in­ter­cep­tor ves­sels back up and run­ning in the short­est time. 

He said when Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley re­cent­ly vis­it­ed Coast Guard head­quar­ters, it was learnt that many of the Coast Guard’s 25 in­ter­cep­tors weren’t work­ing. 

The cost of get­ting the 14 boats back in­to ser­vice is $6 mil­lion. They will bring to 19 the to­tal num­ber of work­ing in­ter­cep­tors. He said they’ll be strate­gi­cal­ly placed along T&T’s coast on the ba­sis of in­tel­li­gence re­ports, among plans to de­fend the porous bor­ders.

Young ad­mit­ted there are some de­fi­cien­cies in bor­der se­cu­ri­ty, hence need for the in­ter­cep­tors. 

“But there are al­so oth­er things we’re do­ing. What will hap­pen is in­tel­li­gence dri­ven,” Young said.

All agen­cies are al­so in­creas­ing pa­trols and process­es. Im­mi­gra­tion is al­so do­ing so, po­lice raids are on and com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Venezue­lan coun­ter­parts are al­so on­go­ing, Young said.

Young al­so said Cab­i­net yes­ter­day agreed to give the Po­lice So­cial and Wel­fare As­so­ci­a­tion (TTP­SWA) state land with build­ings on it. 

“For many years pri­or, the as­so­ci­a­tion had been look­ing for a home. We ap­pre­ci­ate the job po­lice­men and women do in the ser­vice and the stress­es and rigours they go through dai­ly,” he said.

“TTP­SWA will use the build­ings there and con­struct an area for mem­bers to come to ex­er­cise, meet and as­so­ciate with each oth­er— ba­si­cal­ly a safe zone for po­lice to have well­ness in their lives. They can build their own head­quar­ters, well­ness fa­cil­i­ty and as­sets that will help the ser­vice.”

Young al­so said there was no in­for­ma­tion con­nect­ing any of the re­cent homi­cides. Fol­low­ing some mur­ders, in­clud­ing three dou­ble mur­ders with­in days of each oth­er, he said an emer­gency meet­ing was held last Sat­ur­day and the Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Coun­cil met on Wednes­day with all 28 po­lice di­vi­sion­al com­man­ders. 

Young added a re­cent “Busi­ness In­sid­er” ar­ti­cle rank­ing T&T as the 12th most dan­ger­ous place glob­al­ly had no com­par­a­tive analy­sis with oth­er states and was sim­ply so­cial me­dia “click bait.” 

“…That (re­port) looks le­git­i­mate but is re­al­ly mis­chief,” Young said.

PM- Divali encourages purity of our hearts and minds

“Di­vali en­cour­ages pu­ri­ty, not just in the clean­ing of our homes, but in the pu­rifi­ca­tion of our hearts and our minds,” ac­cord­ing to Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley.

In a mes­sage to Hin­dus who will cel­e­brate the Fes­ti­val of Lights to­mor­row, the Prime Min­is­ter, in a state­ment said: “Such pu­ri­ty ex­tends to the way in which we in­ter­act with our nat­ur­al and phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment, the strate­gies we em­ploy to con­serve our most vi­tal re­sources and the life changes we em­brace to­wards achiev­ing per­son­al goals.”

“This Hin­du fes­ti­val is about much more than the light­ing of deyas. It is the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of that in­ner light which dwells in every one of us, when ig­no­rance is pushed aside by un­der­stand­ing and en­light­en­ment; kind­ness re­places self­ish­ness and where love tri­umphs over hate, en­vy and ill-will,” he said.

Re­fer­ring to the re­cent dev­as­tat­ing floods which de­stroyed hun­dreds of homes and left many peo­ple with­out fur­ni­ture and ap­pli­ances as “tru­ly a time of dark­ness.”

“In this time of dis­as­ter, how­ev­er, many lights pierced the gloom,” the state­ment said.

“School chil­dren, mul­ti-na­tion­al cor­po­rate gi­ants, the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty, non-Gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions, re­li­gious bod­ies and pri­vate cit­i­zens worked along­side the State to pro­vide aid wher­ev­er it was need­ed and gave self­less­ly to en­sure that those who were im­pact­ed by this cat­a­stroph­ic event were as­sist­ed.” 

“In the face of seem­ing­ly in­sur­mount­able chal­lenges, we may be tempt­ed to for­get the pow­er we pos­sess to make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence. When we set our hearts and minds to a com­mon pur­pose we can to­geth­er make a pro­found im­pact,” he added.

“Let Di­vali once again re­mind us of our abil­i­ty to be a light in our homes, com­mu­ni­ties and our coun­try. May we all, as we shine our in­di­vid­ual lights, cre­ate an il­lu­mi­na­tion that re­veals a path to­wards peace, pros­per­i­ty and na­tion­al suc­cess.

“On be­half of the Gov­ern­ment of Trinidad and To­ba­go, I ex­tend joy­ous greet­ings to the Hin­du com­mu­ni­ty on the oc­ca­sion of Di­vali, the beau­ti­ful “fes­ti­val of lights,” the state­ment said.

PM- “White-collar crime a National Cancer in T&T”

Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley has  warned those in­volved in cor­rup­tion, fraud and white-col­lar crime to watch out, as the procla­ma­tion of the Crim­i­nal Di­vi­sion and Dis­trict Crim­i­nal and Traf­fic Courts will now go af­ter wrong­do­ers.

Cab­i­net yes­ter­day agreed that on De­cem­ber 1 the procla­ma­tion will go in­to ef­fect.

The leg­is­la­tion is geared to­wards tack­ling cor­rup­tion and com­plex fraud cas­es and will utilise spe­cialised judges and mag­is­trates to deal with cor­rup­tion and white-col­lar cas­es in court.

Speak­ing at yes­ter­day’s post-Cab­i­net me­dia brief­ing at the Diplo­mat­ic Cen­tre, St Ann’s, Row­ley spoke at length on three is­sues, pro­cure­ment, se­cre­cy and white-col­lar crime and cor­rup­tion, say­ing there was a view by some that “all ah we thief” in re­fer­ring to his Gov­ern­ment.

But in the last three years Row­ley said his Gov­ern­ment has been open and trans­par­ent to the pop­u­la­tion. He said his Gov­ern­ment has been ac­cused of not fol­low­ing prop­er pro­cure­ment process­es and op­er­at­ing in se­cre­cy, but this be­hav­iour was in fact the trade­mark of the Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Touch­ing on white-col­lar crime, Row­ley said he had no idea how cor­rupt T&T was un­til he as­sumed of­fice in 2015.

“The in­for­ma­tion that comes to me on a reg­u­lar ba­sis in the con­duct of pub­lic af­fairs tells me that the peo­ple of T&T need to be aware of the ex­tent of the in­sid­i­ous cor­rup­tion that per­me­ates this coun­try and its busi­ness…in the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors,” he said.

He said a lot of the pri­vate sec­tor ac­tiv­i­ties were in­ter­re­lat­ed to pub­lic sec­tor busi­ness and “white col­lar crime is a na­tion­al can­cer in T&T” which his Gov­ern­ment in­tends to fight head-on.

“In our so­ci­ety, a large pro­por­tion of our cit­i­zens be­lieve that the law is on­ly ap­plic­a­ble to the down­trod­den and op­pressed in cer­tain com­mu­ni­ties and there­fore white-col­lar crime is above the law.”

Row­ley said what this Gov­ern­ment “is do­ing is mak­ing it clear to all cit­i­zens that no­body is above the law,” adding white-col­lar crime was just as detri­men­tal to cit­i­zens’ well-be­ing as the vi­o­lent crimes seen every day.

“And those who be­lieve they could com­mit the white-col­lar crime and get away be­cause the sys­tems don’t work they have an­oth­er thought com­ing be­cause we are chang­ing the sys­tems to make the sys­tem work.”

Row­ley al­so spoke about the ma­jor de­vel­op­ment that oc­curred on Mon­day in­volv­ing one of the biggest cas­es of al­leged white-col­lar crime in T&T to reach the courts. He said the Court of Ap­peal had au­tho­rised the Es­tate Man­age­ment Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Com­pa­ny (EM­BD) to fol­low the mon­ey in its pur­suit of al­leged wrong­do­ing.

The mat­ter in­volves the EM­BD, where peo­ple are ac­cused of bribery, col­lu­sion and dis­hon­est con­duct in the award of the Ca­roni Road con­tract.

The court ruled that the “EM­BD has suf­fi­cient in­for­ma­tion to war­rant its re­quest to pur­sue per­sons by fol­low­ing the mon­ey that was paid by the com­pa­ny to cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als for whom Dr Roodal Mooni­lal had re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for.”

A to­tal of ap­prox­i­mate­ly $400 mil­lion was paid out on the eve of the 2015 gen­er­al elec­tions un­der these con­tracts.

The PM said for the first time pub­lic of­fi­cers and their as­so­ciates would be be­fore the court to ac­count for spe­cif­ic ac­tions. He said such a case had se­ri­ous im­pli­ca­tions.

“It should be pos­si­ble to hold pub­lic of­fice and leave and not be afraid of every po­lice uni­form you see or every siren you hear,” Row­ley said. “I want to let you know this has noth­ing to do with any per­son­al­i­ty.”

“Be­cause many oth­er gov­ern­ment agen­cies have found in­for­ma­tion which they have con­vert­ed to ev­i­dence and have iden­ti­fied per­sons who have ques­tions to an­swer and those mat­ters are to be dealt with prop­er­ly in a place of law,” he said.

Rowley said this is not the only corruption matter which will be coming to the courts. While some claim these matters are being dealt with in secrecy, the PM declared, “That secrecy is only temporary because at the end of the day it is all going to come out in the wash.”

Expressing surprise the media was unaware of the court’s ruling and the far reaching implications of this decision, Rowley produced a Cabinet note dated December 4, 2014, to show the then People’s Partnership government breached procurement procedures in its $228 million acquisition of the TTS Nelson from the Chinese government for the Coast Guard.

He said the contract to execute the vessel’s purchase was dated July 13, 2015. The protocol of delivery and acceptance for the TTS Nelson II was signed on September 6, 2015, 24 hours before the general election. Rowley said this was in sharp contrast to the transparent manner that he briefed the population about Government’s intention to purchase two Cape Class vessel from Australia for the Coast Guard.

The PM said the Opposition was also misleading the population about confidentiality and non-disclosure clauses in contracts were “a harbinger of corruption.” Rowley explained this was standard in all government to government and commercial arrangements. He observed the PP had no issue in signing the contract to purchase the TTS Nelson II with those clauses intact. Referring to former minister Wendell Mottley being awarded the Order of the Republic of TT hours earlier, Rowley said people must see public service as honourable again not something flavoured by corruption.

Communications Minister Stuart Young said Government’s efforts to fight corruption will be bolstered by the proclamation of the Criminal Division and District Criminal and Traffic Court Act on December 1. Young said this will allow the court to properly deal with a host of corruption matters and also long standing traffic matters which create a backlog in the court system. On the latter, Young said matters could be dealt with by telephone or video-conferencing if necessary.

Rowley said UNC MP Dr Roodal Moonilal’s attempt to blame the PNM for flooding in Greenvale was an attempt to distract public attention from serious developments in court regarding corruption. The PM promised to speak to the media today at the Parliament at 11.30 am about all issues pertaining to Greenvale.

EMBD to “follow the money”

PM Rowley yesterday said Government had secured a landmark judgment in the Court of Appeal in its anti-corruption cases.

He said “a major development” occurred on Monday involving “one of the biggest cases” of alleged white-collar crime in Trinidad and Tobago to reach the courts whereby the Court of Appeal authorised the Estate Management and Business Development Company (EMBD) to “follow the money” in its pursuit of alleged wrongdoing.

Moonilal in court for EMBD Lawsuit

Former housing minister Dr Roodal Moonilal was in the Port of Spain High Court for the hearing of the lawsuit filed by the Estate Management and Business Development Company (EMBD) against him, four people and three companies.

Moonilal and the others are accused of engaging in an elaborate scheme of bid-rigging, bribery and collusion which led to hundreds of millions of dollars being disbursed to five contractors just before the 2015 general election.

In May 2018, SpotlightTT shed light on the details of the EMBD Lawsuit, read story here: EMBD Lawsuit

Presiding over the EMBD’s lawsuit is Justice James Aboud, who is also hearing a consolidated case in which three companies have sued the state-owned company for unpaid contracts.

Leading the case for the EMBD is Queen’s Counsel David Phillips, while Senior Counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, Lynette Maharaj and Anand Ramlogan are leading the case for Moonilal, the former EMBD executives and the companies.

At yesterday’s hearing, submissions on preliminary issues were advanced by both teams.

The lawsuit is against Moonilal; former EMBD chief executive Gary Parmassar; former divisional manager at EMBD Madhoo Balroop; Andrew Walker; and companies Fides Ltd; Namalco Construction; and LCB Contractors.

In November, a statement from the Office of the Attorney General said the lawsuit concerned ten contracts awarded in August 2015 to five contractors for the upgrade and rehabilitation of certain Caroni access roads and two contracts for rehabilitation works.

The five contractors were identified by the ministry as: TN Ramnauth and Company Ltd (TN Ramnauth); Mootilal Ramhit and Sons Contracting Ltd (Ramhit); Kall Company Lted (Kallco); Namalco Construction Services Ltd (Namalco); and Fides Ltd (Fides).