The biggest political scandal and cover-up in the history of Trinidad and Tobago!
That is how Opposition Member of Parliament Dr. Roodal Moonilal has termed the aborted World Gas-to-Liquids (WGTL) plant and its some $2.8 billion cost to taxpayers.
The cost to the country is larger than that of Piarco Airport and Brian Lara Stadium together, Moonilal declared as he debated a motion of no confidence in Attorney General Faris Al Rawi.
The collapsed project is “one of the most scandalous and bizarre” developments in Trinidad and Tobago’s history, the parliamentarian argued, and a financial thriller filled with lies and deceit.
He stated that had Trinidad and Tobago not lost the sizable sum on the failed WGTL venture, there may have been no need to dip into the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund (HSF).
Moonilal accused Al Rawi of an absence of good judgment in sanctioning the withdrawal of a legal case against Malcolm Jones, the former Executive Chairman of Petrotrin, who had piloted the WGTL project.
He said that Cabinet had taken the decision to give the Attorney General care of the legal matter.
Also, the Board of Directors had passed a resolution granting the AG custody.
“This is Jones 34,” he quipped, in stressing that the matter is a major political scandal.
Moonilal, Member of Parliament for Oropouche East, slammed the Attorney General for not permitting the matter to be heard by a court of law.
He said there was no due diligence before the withdrawal of the legal suit.
He said the plant at Pointe-a-Pierre started with a cost of $850 million and had 33 cost overruns.
Petrotrin stood as a full guarantor for a loan from Credit Suisse, and ended up repaying the entire bill.
The foreign partner “bled Petrotrin and the national economy,” he stated.
Moonilal said that at the launch of the project, in 2004, the Energy Minister was Dr. Lenny Saith, who is a close relative of Al Rawi.
The Opposition MP said the Attorney General had a responsibility to declare the family association.
He said that, throughout the project, senior Petrotrin executives expressed concerns about the procedures and risks involved and escalating costs.
As a result of the major loss suffered by the State-owned petroleum company, workers were denied bonuses, Moonilal stated.
He said that certain State-owned agencies also invested and lost money in the project.
“They poured good money after bad money to recover lost money,” said the Member of Parliament.
He termed the matter a “systematic, calculated and wilful assault on the finances of Trinidad and Tobago.”
Moonilal argued that Al Rawi conducted himself as public relations officer of the PNM rather than the guardian of the public’s interest.
He questioned the sequence of certain decisions.
For example, he stated that 48 hours after Al Rawi met senior Vincent Nelson – who had provided legal advice on the court cases – the Petrotrin Board of Directors took a decision to discontinue the matter.
He claimed that there was “a political conspiracy” to withdraw the case.
Al Rawi “acted as The Closer to remove the matter from court,” Moonilal said.
The matter was discontinued “without proper consideration and with indecent haste,” he declared.
“There was a lack of care and interest,” he added.
The withdrawal of the case represents “a most deadly blow to law and justice,” said the parliamentarian.
He noted that Jones is now a member of the Government’s Task Force on Energy.