Under the noses of security guards, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth in fittings and fixtures at the controversial Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba have been carted away by bandits.
Among the items stolen were gallons of paint, air condition units, rolls of electrical wires, amplifiers, lengths of copper pipe lines and lighting fixtures.
The thieves operated at night by gaining entry at the back of the pitch-black academy, which is surrounded by tall trees and towering grass.
The Sunday Guardian team learnt of the theft from anonymous sources, after the team was allowed to enter the stadium by lax security guards of Paragon Protection Consultants Ltd without being questioned or asked to show any identification.
But Yashmid Ellis Karamath, executive chairman of Hafeez Karamath Ltd (HKL), the main contractor of the sporting facility, is refusing to accept blame for the wanton theft.
"I am not responsible for the stolen items," Karamath insisted yesterday.
In 2005, HKL was awarded the contract for the stadium by the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott), which was scheduled to be completed by 2007 in time for the ICC Cricket World Cup at an initial cost estimate of $275 million.
However, the cost of the stadium ballooned to $885 million with several delays, which resulted in the project being halted in 2010 by Udecott.
Up to that time, Karamath said, he had two security firms–Thor Security Services Ltd and a canine unit called Man Stoppers that secured the sites and its materials.
Karamath: I am not responsible
But when he was asked to vacate the premises, "I told them (Udecott) if I do that I would no longer be responsible for anything," Karamath said.
Karamath said it was difficult to quantify the losses incurred.
"I have no idea what was stolen," Karamath said, refusing to elaborate further on the issue.
The fixtures and fittings, purchased by HKL, were placed in several rooms inside the facility, which were targeted by thieves.
The locks on many of the steel-plated doors where the items were stored were cut open.
Two roomfuls of electrical wires were pilfered of copper strands, while lengths of wires attached to several electrical panel boxes were snipped and removed.
Yesterday, chairman of Udecott Noel Garcia confirmed the theft had occurred from 2010 to 2015, but he could not put a value on the fixtures and fittings.
"I don't know. I know the copper wire would be pretty expensive. Vandalism of copper wire is throughout...they vandalised a lot of TSTT and T&TEC's lines. It's almost like some kind of organised ring," Garcia said.
He said due to poor security at the cricket academy "people say it was a free for all. I have put a stop to all the Carnival fetes that were held in the car park and the drag racing. Once you have people on the stadium anything could happen. You would open the flood gates."
Garcia: It was just craziness
When Garcia toured the stadium with batting star Brian Lara last November, he said he heard "there was a fair amount of vandalism...that people had stolen fixtures and electrical wires and so forth.
"Yes, you are right, people did in fact vandalise and steal fixtures from the Brian Lara Stadium. It was just craziness. They stole the wires and air condition equipment.
"When people say that we should leave the stadium and not fix it they have to be crazy because what would eventually happen, people...would steal out everything."
Under the new board at Udecott, Garcia said, security measures were put in place "to ensure that there is no reoccurrence of what happened in the past with the stealing. Since November we have not had one incident of theft."
Among the measures were the beefing up of security guards, an increase in mobile patrols and illuminating a portion of the stadium.
He said for years the stadium remained in darkness.
Next month, Garcia said, refurbishment work on the stadium would resume, which was expected to cost taxpayers $90 million.
"The work will go on."
Garcia said for the Sunday Guardian to gain entry into the stadium without producing an identification showed that "security was lax. I would take steps to investigate this."
Asked if the contractor or Udecott would be held accountable for the stolen items, Garcia said: "To be frank, I really don't know that."
Garcia said Udecott and HKL were now locked in a legal battle over the project and so he preferred not to comment further.
A security officer who identified herself as Geohajan at Paragon Protection Consultants Ltd said the owner of the establishment "Mr Rezendie" was not in office and she would pass on our concerns to him.
However, up to press time Rezendie had not returned our call.
out of control'
In 2009, the structural steelwork on the stadium was condemned according to a report into the Udecott project prepared by Gerry McCaffrey, the construction expert hired by the Uff Commission of Enquiry.
McCaffrey's initial report into the project revealed that HKL ignored 300 "stop orders" for work on the project.
Chairman of the commission of enquiry into Udecott, Professor John Uff, QC, described the Brian Lara project as "nothing short of scandalous" and "out of control."