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THA lawyer on Tobago land deal: We can’t grant licences
Alvin Pascall, the lawyer representing the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) in the now controversial Culloden Estate matter, says the assembly has no authority or responsibility to approve any foreign investment licence and he does not know who in the assembly held discussions with the group of UK investors to acquire the land in question.
Pascall, who is attached to the THA’s legal division, said so in a letter to attorney Donna Prowell on the issue of the investors and a possible US$30 million lawsuit. Chief Secretary of the THA Orville London did not answer calls on the issue yesterday. The THA’s Information Department, however, cited Pascall’s letter to Prowell, who is acting on behalf of the investors.
According to this, Prowell wrote to the THA on January 10. The UK investors said they were given the impression that all was well with their 2005 bid to buy the 184-acre estate to build a five-star tourist resort. However, since then, they claim, the THA had stalled on the deal and they had lost millions of dollars as a result.
Pascall’s letter pointed out: ”The Tobago House of Assembly has no authority or responsibility for the collection, processing, approving and/or granting licences, pursuant to the Foreign Investment Act; there is no institution or department in Tobago which entertains application/applications for a foreign investment licence.
“In fact on all occasions where persons seek information from the THA, they are directed to the Website of the Ministry of Finance for the forms and/or guidelines for making applications for foreign investment licences and those persons are further advised to direct their application/applications to the permanent secretary, Ministry of Finance.”
Pascall stated: “It is my instructions the Tobago House of Assembly became interested and exercised a decision to acquire the Culloden Estate after the bankers’ power of sale as mortgagee or charges became exercisable and the bank went to the market, via advertisement. “The THA would not have known of any application by the investors pending with the Ministry of Finance.
“The THA would not have been interested with the benefits of any preliminary works carried out by the investor with respect to the Culloden Estate upon the closure of the sale because the sale price would have taken into consideration the increased value of the land, taking note of valuable fixtures and fittings; so that no one would benefit more than he/she is willing to pay.”
Pascall also added: “ I hasten to state that I am unable to identify who in the Tobago House of Assembly’s administration had discussions with the investors, [and] as such I am unable to comment on any representation made as is alleged.” Other sources said the THA had sent some information on the issue and representatives from the UK who were pressing to get the matter settled were in T&T to try to do so. They said a meeting might be held on the issue.
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