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Investors: THA making no sense
The Tobago House of Assembly was being untruthful and contradictory when it said the THA has no authority or responsibility to approve any foreign investment licence (FIL) in the controversial Culloden Estate matter.
Martin George, the local attorney representing the UK investors, and Donna Prowell, the lead counsel for the State, yesterday said statements by THA lawyer Alvin Pascall made no sense, as the guidelines and conditions for licences under the Foreign Investment Act 1990 clearly showed he was wrong, adding the THA had a clear role to play.
In a letter sent to Prowell on Monday, Pascall said: “The THA 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.” Pascall, who is attached to the THA’s legal division, maintained that granting an FIL was solely a matter for the Finance Ministry.
In his letter, he added: “In fact on all occasions where people seek information from the THA, they are directed to the Web site 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.”
In an interview yesterday, Prowell acknowledged receiving the letter from Pascall but said she was surprised it was also in the media because there was an understanding among all parties that the matter would be treated with confidentiality. What was even more incredible, she added, was the THA’s Information Division being cited as the source of Pascall’s letter.
She quoted No 11 of the guidelines, which said applications for foreign investment in Tobago must be submitted directly to the THA’s chief administrator. “What does this say? Isn’t this in direct contradiction to what Mr Pascall is saying? He said the THA has no authority or responsibility. But isn’t this giving them authority and responsibility?
“Mr Pascall is not pointing out any particular time or anything like that. This is a blanket denial,” Prowell added. She said No 14 of the guidelines clearly made reference to the Culloden Estate as being earmarked for foreign investment which was done in consultation with the THA and the Tobago private sector. She added: “I think this was unnecessary for me to read this in the newspaper when there was an understanding among everyone.
“I’m not trying to get into the minds of anybody. I’m not trying to say anybody is acting with malice because I don’t want to get into the politics.” The T&T Guardian also was provided with a letter, dated February 13, 2008, in which London wrote to Chris James of Toucan Inn and Bonkers, Store Bay Local Road, Tobago saying:
“With reference to your correspondence, dated January 19, 2008, I wish to advise that the Tobago House of Assembly is supportive of the Indigo Bay and Culloden Reef projects which will provide 279 additional hotel rooms during this challenging period in the development of the island’s tourism’s sector. “The Tobago House of Assembly also has no objection to the mechanism to be utilised in financing the project, including the granting of 99-year-leases to prospective investors.”
London could not be reached for a response yesterday as calls to his cellphone went unanswered.
Guidelines make it clear
Attorney Martin George, the local attorney representing the UK investors, said the guidelines specifically state the THA has a role to play in the examination of documents where applications for foreign investment in Tobago are concerned. He described Pascall’s statements as “inconceivable and incredible,” saying Pascall was attempting to give the impression the THA knew nothing about the application and had also “never seen a file in the matter.”
George said it was also "inappropriate” for public officials to end up in “spats like this” where they could end up being cross-examined in court.
Pascall drinking London fever medicine
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan yesterday described the latest twist in the Culloden affair as, “Pascall drinking medicine for Orville’s fever.” He said it was also strange London had made no attempt to clear the air. He added: “I must emphasise this is no joking matter. What is at stake is a $200 million claim against the Government. That is why I have asked for all the documentary evidence.”
The AG said if there was a basis to defend the claim he would “most certainly do it” in the public interest, regardless of who it vindicated. “Justice must be done according to the law,” he added.
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