Monday 23 September, 2019

PART 3: Some of the biggest, most absurd scandals to hit UNC and PNM

We're at the end of our three-part series on political scandals which have rattled the PNM and the UNC.

The latest controversies are here.

Strap in, you're in for a ride.

PNM Scandals

2009...

CLICO's collapse

It was only the first month of the year when the worst news imaginable hit Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean region; CLICO had collapsed. 

CL Financial was the largest privately held conglomerate and one of the largest privately-held corporations in the entire Caribbean. It was founded as Colonial Life Insurance Company by Cyril Duprey. It was expanded by his nephew Lawrence Duprey with 65 companies in 32 countries with assets exceeding US$100 billion. 

Clico had a liquidity crisis and on January 30, 2009 the Government announced it would "bail out" CL Financial to the tune of $7 billion.

The agreement gave the Manning-led government control of 49 per cent of CLICO’s shares. 

In 2010, a Commission of Inquiry was launched to look into the failure of the financial institutions under CLICO, including the Hindu Credit Union.

The following year, the Kamla-led government committed an additional $13 billion to keep the insurance company afloat.

In 2014, the compiled report following the inquiry was given to the Prime Minister (KPB) while another was handed over to the President in 2016. The President forwarded his report to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley who sent it to the Director of Public Prosecutions for him to decide whether it should be made public.

$.5 Billion was spent from October 2016 to 2019 on the inquiry into the Collapse of Clico and the Hindu Credit Union. 

To date, no information has been forthcoming.

2019…

Marlene Corruption scandal

"I will be vindicated. I'll have my day in court."

So said former Public Administration Minister Marlene McDonald as she left St Clair Medical on August 14.

She was arrested on August 8 and on August 11 she was slapped with seven offences, namely misappropriation of state funds, conspiracy to defraud the Government, misbehaviour in public office and money laundering. Mc Donald’s partner, Michael Carew and three contractors were also charged.

This follows a 2013 investigation into the Calabar Foundation in which Carew and one of the charged contractors served as board members. It also stemmed from investigations into over $1 million being siphoned from the Ministry of Community Development and Culture which she led, to three businesses (including the Calabar Foundation) owned by family and friends.

In 2013, the Integrity Commission cleared McDonald of any wrongdoing relative to Calabar but, the matter arose again in 2015 when she became Housing Minister.

Firings

- In 2016, McDonald was axed as Housing Minister. This occurred after it was revealed that as Community Development Minister, she ensured that Carew got an HDC house at Fidelis Heights, St Augustine, in 2008.

- After laying low, she was appointed Public Utilities Minister in June 2017. She was found innocent of any wrongdoing by police and the Integrity Commission on the Calabar Foundation issue but that didn’t last very long. Two days later, she was fired for bringing a reputed Sea Lots resident, Cedric “Burkie” Burke, to her swearing-in ceremony at President’s House. This gave birth, arguably, to the longest trending meme in the country.

McDonald was only officially appointed Public Administration Minister on March 1.

UNC Scandals

2015…

Corruption at Children Life Fund

The Children’s Life Fund (CLF) was created by the People’s Partnership Government in 2010 to provide financial assistance to parents or guardians with children in need of life-saving surgeries.

The Fraud Squad had cause to investigate 13 cases of embezzlement or misappropriation.

CLF CEO Genevieve Madoo wrote to then Government leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar on May 7, 2014 in which she alleged that a for­mer em­ploy­ee had ob­tained close to US$7,700 equivalent to TT$50,000.

The employee reportedly conned parents in­to sign­ing re­ceipts for mon­ey they were sup­posed to re­ceive for day-to-day ex­pens­es when they trav­elled with their chil­dren for op­er­a­tions in Colom­bia, Ar­genti­na and the Unit­ed States.

In December 2018, a former CLF employee was charged with 13 counts of larceny of the property of the fund amounting to US$15,640.

The accused is 43-year-old Krisas Sookraj of School Street, Carenage who worked as an executive assistant at the Fund.

The sums of money were approved by the board of the Children’s Life Fund to be issued as payment to 13 children between the ages of three to six years, who were suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

2019…

Anand Ramlogan, Gerald Ramdeen and kickback scheme

Former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan was arrested in May while at the Piarco International Airport.

He was held just as he was waiting to board a flight to the British Virgin Islands where he was expected to represent the speaker of that country's House of Assembly.

The arrest was over his alleged involvement in kickbacks and money laundering during his tenure.

Former UNC senator Gerald Ramdeen was also taken into custody after turning himself over to the Anti-Corruption Investigation Bureau (ACID) in Port-of-Spain. He reportedly heard that a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Seven active investigations have been reviewing large payments made by the Attorney General's office to a "favoured few" totalling over TT$1 billion. Ramdeen was reportedly a major recipient of legal fees approved by Ramlogan.

Both men have denied the allegations.

The former AG was charged with misbehaviour in public office and perverting the course of justice.

The latter was linked to a report made by Police Complaints Authority (PCA) Director David West in January 2015, in which he accused Ramlogan of attempting to get him (West) to withdraw his statement in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

In 2012, Dr Rowley raised concerns over certain transactions at the AG's office. Ramlogan sued him for defamation but eventually dropped the charges. 

2019…

All about Jack

It’s been a long road for former FIFA Vice President Jack Warner who at age 76, was ordered to pay $79 million default to the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) by a US judge.

Warner was convicted in his absence in June, for bribes and kickbacks during his tenure as a FIFA executive committee member and President of Concacaf.

He is fighting extradition from Trinidad to the US over the separate indictment brought against him by the US Justice Department in 2015.

Among other allegations, Warner and Concacaf General Secretary Chuck Blazer were accused of receiving millions of dollars in exchange for FIFA executive committee votes for World Cup hosting. He also allegedly received kickbacks for the award of broadcast rights to major events, including the 2010 World Cup, in T&T.

The former UNC Minister is accused of 12 offences which includes racketeering, corruption and money laundering. The crimes were allegedly committed in the US and Trinidad and Tobago, dating as far back as 1990. 

He is on $2.5 million bail.

2019…

Cambridge Analytica

In March, The Cambridge Analytica (CA) scandal dominated international headlines.

But, what do we know about Cambridge Analytica and its alleged involvement in Trinidad and Tobago's affairs?

CA is a British political consulting firm which combined data mining, data brokerage and data analysis with strategic communication during the electoral processes.

The company is at the centre of a personal data scandal and is accused of using data on 50 million Facebook users to formulate political advertising on the Donald Trump election campaign.

The People's Partnership Government is alleged to have engaged the services of the company. However, the Opposition has denied the claims.

 An audit has since been launched by the Government in a bid to determine if these reports are true.

Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower Christopher Wylie told UK lawmakers that CA worked alongside a company in 2013 to get information on the population.

He said the project involved accessing raw internet service provider data for the entire country, to monitor what people were browsing.

They were also reportedly the masterminds behind the UNC's 'Do So' campaign in which they sought to encourage Afro-Trinidadians to avoid voting while the Indo-Trinidadian children would "listen to their parents" and vote.

This was revealed in a Netflix Documentary called 'The Great Hack'.

The UNC won that election.

...END.

We're approaching the end of 2019. Local Government elections and General elections will take place by 2020. There's no date in sight but we're quite sure some scathing accusations will be levelled by both sides. T'is the season after all. 

 

 

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