Minister of Works and Transport Rohan Sinanan has admitted to having a “beneficial interest” in the Kay Donna Cinema property which is in the path of the multi-million dollar Curepe Interchange.
The issue of Sinanan being one of three owners of the cinema was put to the ministry’s director of legal services Marvin Gonzales by the T&T Guardian at a press conference yesterday.
But Gonzales denied that Sinanan was one of three owners.
“What we have is a property by the name of Valsayn Resorts that had a lease with the Commissioner of State Lands. That lease expired a couple years ago and it was not renewed.”
However, Gonzales said because of improvement works done on the parcel of land, the company is entitled, under the Land Acquisition Act, to make a claim for improvements and the structure that was on that property.
Gonzales said a claim had been made and negotiations are continuing between the commissioner and the owners of Valsayn Resorts. He said Sinanan’s role in the company was that of a “beneficial interest.”
Following the press conference, Sinanan said Valsayn Resorts bought the lease of the cinema while he was an executive in the company.
“I was a director and a shareholder at that time,” he explained.
Approximately eight years ago, Sinanan said he relinquished that, “but I still maintain a beneficial interest because that transaction was not fully completed.”
Sinanan said he continues to declare his assets on his integrity forms and recused himself from any decisions made on the acquisition of the land.
“Until the payment is completed for my shares I have to maintain that I do have a beneficial interest in it.”
Sinanan reminded the media that valuation of properties are not done by the Ministry of Works but Finance Ministry.
“So the ministry has no role to play in who gets what for properties. These properties would have been earmarked for compulsory acquisition since 2013. It’s not a decision this ministry and the Government came up with last month.”
Notice was served on the cinema property five years ago.
Asked if his beneficial interest was not a conflict of interest, Sinanan said no, as he again maintained the lands had been earmarked long before he became a minister.
Although Kay Donna Cinema has since been demolished, Sinanan said from his information Valsayn Resorts has put in no claim for the land value.
Asked if he will benefit when the claim is submitted, he said, “That is why I said I have a beneficial interest. So, obviously if a claim is paid yes, I will benefit from that. I don’t make decisions on how much is paid.”
Asked if everything will be done above board with the payments, Sinanan said, “That is why you have these stumbling blocks now because the commissioner of valuations has to justify the figure that they are paying. We don’t expect the commissioner to put any figure there that he cannot justify and the public will not be able to be privy to.”
Sinanan said also informed Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley of his interest.
“The PM’s response was that this is a country where everybody has lands and property, once you understand the oath of office that you take and you are not going to prejudice any decision. So this issue is not a new issue.”