Friday 17 November, 2017

Dr Moonilal, Kallco pinpointed in alleged $200M bid-rigging scandal

Dr Roodal Moonilal, former EMBD (Estate Management and Business Development Company Limited) 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. 

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Minister in the Ministry of the Attorney General, Stuart Young, said after 20 months of investigations, the Ministry has gathered evidence which will form part of civil claims to render contracts with five companies void and unenforceable.

Young said five companies were allegedly ‘hand-picked’ for the upgrade and rehabilitation of certain Caroni roads, namely:

- TN Ramnauth and Company Limited (TN Ramnauth)

- Mootilal Ramhit and Sons Contracting Limited (Ramhit)

- Kall Company Limited (Kallco)

- Namalco Construction Services Limited (Namalco)

- Fides Limited (Fides)

He said four of the contractors - Namalco, TN Ramnauth, Kallco and Ramhit - commenced legal action against EMBD for recovery of monies that they allege are owed to them.

"One contractor, Namalco, sued EMBD on May 6, 2016 for over $1 billion and this claim has been vigorously defended and resisted by EMBD and was today stayed in the High Court," he said. 

Young also recounted several emails which he says shows Dr Moonilal influencing the selection of contractors for several state projects, resulting in payments amounting to over $200 million.

Young said as a result, Parmassar and former EMBD Divisional Manager Madho Balroop are also implicated in an “elaborate scheme” which was executed in August 2015 and led to over $200 million dollars being disbursed to five contractors between July 2015 and the general elections of September 2015.

He said forensic work uncovered text messages being sent and received by Parmassar from telephone numbers registered to Dr Moonilal, Taradauth Ramnauth, one of the principals of Kallco and one of the principals of Namalco, Naeem Ali, which “provide evidence of cartel behaviour, bribery, collusion, knowing receipt and dishonest assistance and unlawful means conspiracy”.

Young said the text messages include messages from the phone number registered to Dr Moonilal instructing Parmassar 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.

He said the messages also show Ramnauth organising a house from the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) for Parmassar, telling him who to award contracts from EMBD to and how much to pay these identified contractors.

Young said EMBD, with the support of the Office of the Attorney General, filed Defences and Counterclaims against TN Ramnauth and Kallcolast Thursday.

He said EMBD has also sought to stay the Namalco $1 billion action to have Namalco joined to these cartel claims, and will shortly be serving claims against Dr Roodal Moonilal, Gary Parmassar, Madho Balroop, Fides and Ramhit to have these matters tried.

The Defence and Counterclaim against Ramhit is being filed in the High Court today,” he added.

“The evidence supports very serious allegations of white-collar corruption, bid-rigging, cartel behaviour, breach of fiduciary duties, bribery, collusion, knowing receipt and dishonest assistance and unlawful means conspiracy.”

“This is yet another culmination of the work being done out of the office of the Attorney General to fight white-collar crime in Trinidad and Tobago. Regardless of whom the perpetrator/s are, we will prosecute these matters in the court on behalf of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said, adding that proceedings have also been filed in New York and Miami regarding some of the companies.