Several held in airport probe swoop *LINK*
Posted By: News In Response To: Four held in Airport fraud (News)
Date: 18, May 04, at 7:16 p.m.
In Response To: Four held in Airport fraud (News)
By DARREN BAHAW
Tuesday, May 18th 2004
POLICE MOUNTED a massive dragnet last night and arrested several people, including a former government minister and top business people, on a number of charges related to the Piarco Airport Terminal Development project.
One former chairman of the Airports Authority was arrested just before he was about to board an aircraft at Piarco while another businessman who had migrated to Costa Rica and obtained citizenship was also taken into custody after he came to Trinidad.
The Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau (ACIB), an elite white-collar unit, which had been investigating the award of contracts, valued at $1.6 billion, and assisted by a team of forensic investigators led by Canadian Robert Lindquist, managed to trace monies held in several foreign bank accounts located in the Bahamas, Florida and Liechtenstein, between the borders of Austria and Switzerland.
Over 17 people and seven companies have been identified as being involved in an intricate conspiracy where dummy companies were allegedly formed and over $144 million paid out for work not done.
There was a bee-hive of activity at the Richmond Street headquarters of the ACIB last night as police brought in the arrested people in darkly-tinted unmarked police vehicles as anxious family members milled around.
A team of defence attorneys was last night at the ACIB office as their clients were denied bail upon arrest and are expected to appear before a Port of Spain magistrate today.
Among those arrested were former chairmen of key State-owned agencies and executives of companies which were awarded contracts to construct the new terminal building. The investigation allegedly uncovered a plot where although the process involved in obtaining the lucrative contracts was touted to be transparent and fair under competitive bidding it was in fact corrupted by bid-rigging, and collusion in exchange for cash rewards.
The Piarco project was launched by the former United National Congress government after the party assumed office in 1995 but was under constant criticism from the then Opposition party, the People's National Movement, as being a platform to enable several UNC financiers to benefit through inflation of the cost of the project.
The PNM, after coming into power in 2001, appointed a Commission of Enquiry to investigate allegations relating to the project and Commission Chairman former chief justice Clinton Bernard submitted his report which was not made public as police reviewed and investigated the findings.
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