Monday 1 June, 2020

Company threatens legal action against Petrotrin over oil fraud claims

The company at the centre of the Petrotrin "fake oil" allegations has initiated a legal challenge against State-owned Petrotrin and its Chairman Wilfred Espinet.

A&V Oil and Gas Ltd has retained attorneys Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj and Ronnie Bissessar to defend it against claims that the company was paid for oil it did not produce.

In a legal letter dated September 14, the company demanded that Petrotrin withdraw any statements which suggest A&V is guilty of any fraudulent conduct.

The company said while it has been the subject of an internal audit report dated August 17, the findings contained in the report are preliminary and inconclusive.

The company said statements made by Espinet supported allegations made by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar that the company fraudulently received US$11.5 million from Petrotrin by overstating its production of crude oil sold to Petrotrin.

A&V said Persad-Bissessar's statements were "grossly defamatory".

It further stated that the company was not consulted before publication of the internal audit report which was meant to be for internal use only.

"A and V has not been informed of the findings following Petrotrin's independent confirmation nor has it received from Petrotrin a copy of the report dates August 17 nor has it been invited by Petrotrin to respond to any of the allegations," it said.

Further, it said, the report was speculative and unsupported and contained certain errors and inconsistencies.

The company said Petrotrin has since withheld payments due for June and July in the sum of US$6,310,438.66 which it described as a breach of contract.

"It is unlawful for Petrotrin to act on the report to adversely affect A and V's contractual rights having regard to the fact that Petrotrin has admitted that the report was preliminary and that its findings were going to be independently confirmed."

A&V demanded payment of the outstanding sum within seven days.

It added that it continues to suffer irreparable damage to its reputation and brand due to the allegations. 

The company said if Petrotrin fails to issue a written statement withdrawing its previous comments, appropriate proceedings will be initiated.

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