Taxpayers have lost millions of dollars in the aborted World Gas-To-Liquids (WGTL) project, extensive investigations by TTWhistleblower have uncovered.
And, more than ever, Attorney General Faris Al Rawi is being asked to answer major questions over his shock decision to withdraw legal action against energy big-wig Malcolm Jones.
A probe by this online news agency has discovered:
- Petrotrin provided joint and several guarantees and picked up the tab for millions of dollars, even though the State-owned energy firm was a 49 per cent minority shareholder;
- Petrotrin had declined to undertake its own feasibility study and ended up footing the bill for major cost overruns;
- Ventech Construction and Installation Company, the construction contractor, had only done modular designs of smaller plants before it was commissioned for the giant project at the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery;
- Even though it was stipulated in a contract of September 22, 2005, no front-end engineering works were undertaken on the WGTL plant.
- No completion and mechanical performance guarantees were given by Ventech; Jones, who was Petrotrin’s Executive Chairman at the time of the WGTL deal, is an insider in the Rowley Government and serves on the Energy Sub-Committee; In political opposition, Dr. Keith Rowley slammed the WGTL project, but as Prime Minister he has upheld Al Rawi’s stunning decision to withdraw the suit against Jones.
The project was entered into by Petrotrin and New York-based World GTL Inc., to convert natural gas into environmentally-friendly liquefied diesel.
Documents obtained by TTWhistleblower.com (Download WGTL Leaked Document) reveal that the contract agreement was signed by Jones on behalf of Petrotrin and President David Loring and Vice President Randall Washington for WGTL.
The contract was entered into under a PNM administration.
Other Petrotrin directors at the time were Charmaine Baptiste, Anthony Chan Tack, Garvin Chimming, Angela-Hamel Smith, Dr. Eddie Koury, Jose Perez, Harry Piritheesingh and Ramnarine Ramdass.
The project was never put to use, reportedly because of the lack of relevant technology. The incomplete plant is now scrap iron at Pointe-a-Pierre.The People’s Partnership Government undertook a forensic study into the matter and a pre-action protocol letter was sent to Jones in August 2011.
In May 2013, then-Attorney General Anand Ramlogan had a $2 billion suit filed against Jones for breach of fiduciary duties. The lawsuit alleged that the cost of the plant has increased from US $110 million to US $135 m. It was also claimed that the Petrotrin Board of Directors ignored concerns of the company’s executive management.
The management had urged that Petrotrin undertake its own feasibility study.
The suit sought an estimated TT $2 billion, inclusive of interest and legal costs.
In early March Al Rawi revealed that the new Board of Directors of Petrotrin decided to discontinue the action on the basis of legal advice.
Al Rawi said: “I am able to inform that, as a result of written advice given, a notice of discontinuance of these proceedings was filed on February 29 and the matter against Malcom Jones came to an end.”
He said the advice came from Vincent Nelson QC.
The AG advised that Nelson said that he did not think Petrotin will be successful in resisting the application for specific disclosure by Jones.
He said that Nelson stated that the then-Petrotrin Board was “perhaps naive and probably duped by WGTL principals.”
The decision to withdraw the case has been criticised by several commentators.
The Newsday newspaper said the actions “appear more disruptive than judicious”, and the Express headlined its editorial “AG wrong.”
Newsday said: “The Attorney General must not appear to act according to political dictates or in line with people favoured by the administration.”
The newspaper said Al Rawi is open to criticism of politicisation and cronyism.
“This case has been handled in a most unsatisfactory way,” Newsday stated.
“We are not dealing with any old company but with a billion-dollar State enterprise, where there should be stringent controls…”