THE Prime Minister has lashed back at Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar who advocated for criminal charges to be laid against him following allegations by former CoP Gary Griffith that Rowley gave him $35 million to pursue criminal charges against opposition members.
Speaking on a People’s National Movement (PNM) political platform in Pleasantville on Tuesday night, Rowley said no money was given to Griffith for this purpose.
He said Cabinet approved US $18 million for the police service to fight white collar crime based on request by various Ministers to pursue criminal conduct they would have uncovered in their ministries.
He said as a former prime minister, “who led a Cabinet where half of them are in the court house, you would keep yourself quiet, but you are out front calling for me to be charged because some deranged imp telling you I gave him money to pursue you.”
“I tell you this,” he said to his audience at the Pleasantville Community Centre, “so you can be aware that one of the things we are dealing with in this country is a huge reservoir of white -crime, left there by the UNC.”He said one of the fraudulent issues the Estate Management Business Development (EMBD) is fighting is a barrage of lawsuits for $3.777 billion.
He recalled that when his Government came into office in September 2015, it met a situation where selected contractors had in their possession, fraudulent certified claims for humongous sums for work purported to be done for the EMBD.
He said five contractors claimed they were owed $965 million collectively. During an investigation of the claims, he said a flow chart showed the filtering down of some $904,000 to a senior advisor in the Office of the Prime Minister at the time.
He said one contractor in the EMBD package was awarded a contract for $34 million, but this was subsequently increased to $300 million.
He charged that in July of 2015, Cabinet approved a contract and by September 7, election day, $400 million was paid out to contractors who said they worked in August to pave roads in Caroni.
Over the years, he said, the EMBD has been prudently managing its litigation package, being able to settle a $600 million claim for $43.8 million and seven other litigation matters valued at approximately $1 million, for $670,000.
But the real piece de resistance, he said is that active litigation matters still being pursued by contractors, including four Court of Appeal matters, 19 High Court matters, six of which are consolidated claims, one arbitration and two industrial court matters, when estimated interest and costs are added, this amounts to $3.777 billion.
The Prime Minister also said while he is still being criticised for the restructuring of Petrotrin, former Energy Minister in the PP administration Kevin Ramnarine was signalling the sorry state of that state enterprise in 2014, long before his government was installed.
Rowley read from the Hansard of December 3, 2014, a statement Ramnarine made on the financial position of Petrotrin, in light of the low refinery margin over two previous years, fall in oil prices and expected further shrinkage of refinery margin at that time
He quoted Ramnarine who spoke of a loss of $346 million which was unaudited, in fiscal year 2014 and which broke even in 2013’
At that time Ramnarine also spoke about the fall in the gross refining margin as a feature of world-wide oversupply of refinery capacity, compounded by the shale oil revolution which has seen American refineries benefit from cheaper crude and lower natural gas prices.
Ramnarine also alluded to the closure of 86 refineries around the world.
“Eighty-refineries, for reasons given by the UNC Minister, faced closure, but in TT when we made the decision to close ours, the 87th, they can’t done talk about how wicked the Government is, how bad the Government is, how we destroyed the economy and where this come from and there was no decision when in fact we had to take a fundamental decision and this was done five years after the UNC told the country this.
“They had no intention of solving any problem.”