United National Congress (UNC) activist Ravi Balgobin-Maharaj is planning to refer Petrotrin’s decision to discontinue its multi-million dollar lawsuit against its former executive chairman Malcolm Jones to the Integrity Commission.
Balgobin-Maharaj confirmed his intention yesterday as he issued a press release, in which he analysed the legal advice that the former State company’s board followed to discontinue the claim against Jones in 2016.
His 10-page analysis was primarily based on the witness statements of Jones’ fellow board members Charmaine Baptiste and Anthony Chan Tack, which were vital in the company’s arbitration against World GTL over the failed deal for a gas to liquid plant at the company’s Pointe-a-Pierre refinery.
Baptiste and Chan Tack’s statements were the basis of the legal advice from British Queen’s Counsel Vincent Nelson to discontinue the claim.
The documents were recently disclosed to Balgobin-Maharaj, with the approval of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, after the Privy Council reversed the decisions of the local courts to bar him from pursuing a claim over Petrotrin’s decision to refuse his requests for the information under the Freedom of Information Act.
In his release, Balgobin-Maharaj described Nelson’s advice as political as he contended that he could not find any justification in his perusal of the documents used by him (Nelson).
“Having now been able to properly inspect the witness statements mentioned by Mr Nelson I can say with utmost certainty that there is absolutely no truth in those claims. More than that however, is that not only do these statements not absolve Mr Jones of any claims made against him, but certainly there exists clear evidence of negligence,” Maharaj said.
He quoted several excerpts from both witness statements, which he claimed proved Petrotrin’s initial claim that Jones was complicit in the controversial deal.
“Mr Loring (World GTL) made a big show of reaching into his jacket pocket and pulling out a check for US$5 million, which he showed to me, and said that WGTL had the money to repay Petrotrin...I know that Mr Loring was meeting with Mr Jones later in the day and I told Mr Loring to give the check to Mr Jones. When I later asked Mr Jones about this he told me that Mr Loring showed him the check, but never actually gave it to him,” Baptiste said in her statement.
Balgobin-Maharaj also claimed that Chan Tack’s assessment of the project also buttressed Petrotrin’s need to pursue the claim against Jones for failing to do proper due diligence before sealing the deal.
“Petrotrin-not WGTL-was the party that had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the project, and would have the party stuck footing the bill while the “fine tuning” was worked out, But if, in the end, it didn’t work out, the Guarantee Contribution Agreement allowed WGTL to simply walk away from the project without contributing a single dollar to fund cost overruns,” Chan Tack said in his statement.
“By October 2008 my concerns about the project’s viability and safety had become so serious that I decided to resign from the WGTL Trinidad Board,” Chan Tack added.
Balgobin-Maharaj also called upon Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi to address the issue of political interference, in light of the statements.
“Any failure to provide such a cause however, would only further validate the opinion that this was a politically motivated decision for a friend and confederate of this PNM administration,” Balgobin-Maharaj said.