Bodybuilding Federation head accuses State of LifeSport ‘fishing’

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PRESIDENT of the TT Bodybuilding Federation Susanna Hadad has accused the State of “fishing for evidence” to build a case of conspiracy, money laundering and misconduct in public office arising out of the now controversial and defunct LifeSport programme.

She did so in a claim filed on February 10 in the High Court against the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police. The claim challenges the search warrant, signed off by a justice of the peace, for Fraud Squad officers to search her sister’s home in Carnbee, Tobago, where she has been staying for the past year and a half.

Hadad’s sister, the claim says, is Diane Hadad, chair of the Tobago Division of the TT Chamber of Commerce.

The search was done on January 22 and the warrant had been issued by JP Nancoo to Sgt Darren Libert of the Fraud Squad, the claim said.

Police seized two laptops, one owned by her sister, external hard drives, adaptors and several flash drives.

Hadad is the owner of 12 companies, some of which were mentioned by name in the warrant.

Hadad, 60, also claims that not only was the State “fishing for evidence” to build a case against several people named in the warrant, but there was also “cogent reasons and evidence to surmise” the motivations surrounding targeting her and the others “may be political in nature.”

In the claim, Hadad is seeking several declarations that the search warrant was unconstitutional, unlawful and arbitrary as it was not only vague, incoherent and rambling, but was being used by the State to “circumvent” a 2016 ruling of the High Court which quashed the audit report of the LifeSport programme.

In 2014, the central audit committee (CAC) of the Ministry of Finance was directed by the then minister to audit the LifeSport programme after numerous adverse media reports which suggested financial impropriety.

The audit was done and the report laid in Parliament, but was subsequently successfully challenged in court by the former permanent secretary in the Sports Ministry and three other senior officials in a judicial review claim.

In 2016, then High Court judge, Justice Mira Dean-Armorer held the CAC breached the rules of natural justice, and the failure to inform the four before making adverse allegations against them was procedurally unfair.

She not only quashed the report but ordered the audit be redone.

The claim contends almost six years have elapsed since the judge’s ruling and the State has not done a new audit, accusing it of now attempting to circumvent the court’s ruling to achieve the recommendations made by the auditors in the impugned report.

Hadad’s lawsuit says the police “may well have been guilty of material non-disclosure” in failing to inform the JP of the court’s judgment.

It also said a quashing order had the effect of nullifying, voiding or setting aside an action.

“The warrant is spectacularly vague, incoherent and rambling, and these factors ought to have aroused some disquiet and apprehension in the mind of JP Nancoo.”

Hadad’s claim has been assigned to Justice Nadia Kangaloo.

It also called on the court to take judicial notice of the fact that the investigations into the LifeSport programme only started after the CAC’s 2014 audit report and the contents of the warrant were evident the State was “fishing for evidence in an attempt to establish the offences of conspiracy, money laundering, misconduct in public office based on the allegations that were contained in the Audit report.”

It further suggested the court take “actual notice” that the LifeSport programme remains the subject of highly adverse comment by the Government some eight years after it was suspended by former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and six years after the report was quashed by the judge.

Several articles published in the Newsday and other newspapers, which quoted former attorney general Faris Al-Rawi and former national security minister Stuart Young, were referenced and the claim said there was evidence to suggest the “motivations surrounding the targeting of the claimant and others named in the offending warrant may be political in nature.”

Hadad also wants an order of mandamus compelling the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Sport to produce a copy of the audit that was ordered by then deputy permanent secretary Ian Ramdahin commissioning Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) to conduct an audit of her done on July 21, 2015.

She has also asked the court to declare that the taking of the laptops and computer accessories was unconstitutional as well as compensation.

According to the warrant, the police are allegedly conducting investigations relating to the LifeSport programme from June 1, 2012-December 31, 2014. Several public officials were named and alleged between that period conspired to defraud the Government of in excess of $7.9 million.

The LifeSport programme was conceived and implemented in 2012, with the intent to effect social transformation in the lives of young men who were considered susceptible to criminal and other nefarious elements.

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