Sunday 24 September, 2017

Opposition Leader reveals alleged Petrotrin fraud by party financier

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has pointed to an alleged financier for the People's National Movement who she says is a friend of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, whose company allegedly defrauded Petrotrin of more than $90 million within the last 12 months.

Speaking at a meeting of the United National Congress (UNC) in Couva on Sunday, Persad-Bissessar referred to the results of an internal audit which was conducted at Petrotrin, which revealed that there was an overstatement of production and leakage from one company, which was owned by a friend of the Prime Minister. 

"He is a very close friend and acquaintance of the Prime Minister. So close that he pays for and runs an advert on television to compliment the Prime Minister since Dr. Rowley has assumed office. He is a major financier of the People National Movement and the Prime Minister is a frequent visitor to his home in south Trinidad," Persad-Bissessar said.

She said the company had been paid as much as TT$80 million for oil it had not produced and is asking if this was the reason for the previous board's resignation.

"This is what the Internal audit team found when they investigated this matter:

"1. Based upon the number of control issues identified during our visit to the Catshill field and our analysis of the Sales tickets and GPS records internal audit has concluded that the custody transfer process at the Catshill field has been compromised.

"This has resulted in the fraudulent overstatement of production and leakage from the company. In the internal audit’s opinion this purchase of non-existent crude from Catshill is the main contributing factor to Petrotrin receiving significantly less oil than the volumes recorded by the Exploration and Production department."

"2. Petrotrin has been paying the Operator for oil it has not produced. Yes! The Prime Ministers best friend is getting paid for oil his company has not produced and he wants to make Petrotrin profitable."

"Based upon past and production data an optimistic estimate of the production from the Catshill field is somewhere between 1400 and 1600 barrels per day."

"Sales as per the sales tickets have averaged 5000 barrels per day in the month of 2017 June alone and we estimate that production for this month would have been overstated by 90,000 barrels which at a conservative 33 USD a barrel payment to the Operator works out to an overpayment of UDS 2.97 million for the month of June alone."

"3. It is estimated that for the period of 2017 January to June, six months Catshill overstated its production by at least 350,000 barrels and Petrotrin would have overpaid USD 11.5 million dollars."

"That is in excess of 80 million Trinidad and Tobago dollars."

"4. Petrotrin has paid royalities to the government of approximately 1.8 million USD for crude not received during the six month period January 2017 to June 2017."

Persad-Bissessar also claimed that the company has been misstating figures on oil production and sending inaccurate information to the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs.

"I want to challenge the Prime Minister today to tell the country that he did not know this was going on at Petrotrin. I want to challenge the Minister of Energy to tell the country today that he did not know this was going on at Petrotrin. I want to ask Andrew Jupiter today if this was the reason why he resigned from Petrotrin. I want to ask if this is the reason the Petrotrin Board was fired."

"Was this payback for the contribution that was made to the 2015 campaign?" Persad-Bissessar said.

She is calling for an investigation into the matter and is asking why Petrotrin president, Fitzroy Harewood, has not taken any action against the company in question. 

"You see the Attorney General frequently says that he will follow the money. I want to tell him today to go and follow the 90 million dollars that belongs to the people of this country that is today sitting in the bank account of a PNM financier and close friend of the Prime Minister," she said. 

Persad-Bissessar is also calling for the dismissal of Energy Minister Franklin Khan and that the company's contract with Petrotrin to be terminated pending any investigations. 

She said she intends to write to the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the head of the fraud squad and the Integrity Commission enclosing copies of the report and requesting that an immediate criminal investigation be initiated.