Friday 17 November, 2017

Bid rigging claim is a distraction, Moonilal says

Former Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal is accusing the Government of attempting to stall lawsuits levied against them, by contractors who have taken action against the Estate Management and Business Development Company Limited (EMBDC) over outstanding payments.

Moonilal’s comment comes as Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General Stuart Young, in a media conference today, announced that Moonilal, EMBDC CEO Gary Parmassar and three others  have been accused of bid-rigging and ‘cartel behaviour’ in the handing out of several contracts during Dr Moonilal’s tenure as housing minister, amounting to over $200 million in payments.

Young said after 20 months of investigations, the Ministry gathered evidence which will form part of civil claims to render contracts with five companies void and unenforceable.

In response, Moonilal said this announcement is a form of distraction by the Government.

“The effect of their defense is to postpone the matters that they face in court from the contractors. The same government that threw out the Malcolm Jones’ civil action involving $16billion filed a defense to accuse of corruption the same contractors that they recently hired. This is a ploy to stop the lawsuits against the government,” he said.

Moonilal also denied claims that text messages were exchanged between himself and Parmassar, instructing him to prepare cheques for tens of millions of dollars to these contractors and to bring the cheques to him, as the former minister, once prepared.

“They submit typed-up pages of what they call "text messages" which at best has been fabricated, manipulated, mutilated, shortened and carelessly arranged to paint a picture of civil wrongdoings. This has been typed by the Attorney General and the Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General who both drafted and submitted this statement since they prosecute civil matters on behalf of the government. There are no screenshots, no full display of messages, no certificate of authenticity from any known service provider. In short, it was typed up by the Attorney General and Minister Young to suit their political purpose of smearing individuals and companies. The key objective is to stop the ongoing court matters against the government,” he stated.

The former Housing Minister claimed the companies named by the Minister have been awarded PNM contracts and questioned why they are now being labeled “corrupt”.

He also slammed the hypocrisy of the allegations, noting that Minister Young pointed to the provision of a housing unit to the former EMBDC CEO as a form of wrongdoing. He said, however, that HDC Chairman Newman George in 2016, wrote to then Managing Director Brent Lyons, to direct him to put recommendations from a former Minister since he said “we may need him in the future for assistance.”

Meanwhile, Moonilal said he instructed his Attorneys to immediately write to the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) to lodge a complaint against police officers who may have leaked a warrant to Arouca/Maloney MP Robinson-Regis.

“WPC Robinson-Regis who read what was purported to be a warrant into the Parliament’s record bearing in mind that only an authorized police officer can hold and read a warrant. I have further instructed my lawyers to write the Commissioner of Police and the DPP on this matter where information has been sent to the police as the Minister admitted today, such information being incorrect, misleading and totally erroneous. This is an attempt to maliciously influence a police investigation.”

He said the timing of the investigation was convenient in relation to the ongoing scandals at the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (PATT) and the “fake oil” controversy at Petrotin. He added that it was ironic that in those cases the Prime Minister and Attorney Generals suggest the Boards and management are guilty of alleged wrongdoing but in the matter at the EMBDC, the Minister is responsible.