Tuesday DECEMBER 4
A local company, Fidelity Finance and Leasing Company Limited, was paid $496 million by the Airports Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (AATT) for "construction work" done to the controversial terminal building at Piarco International Airport.
This represented 57 percent of the financing of the project up to September 30, 2000. Fidelity is a member of the Maritime Finance Group.
Calmaquip Engineering Inc was paid $183 million, Northern Construction $29 million, and all other contractors, $161 million. A total of $869 million was paid out by the end of September 30, 2000. The final cost of the project has been put at $1.4 billion.
This information is contained in a 43-page report dated December 7, 2000, by Canadian forensic investigator Robert Lindquist, who was hired by the Government in 2000 to investigate allegations of corruption in the award of the airport contracts.
According to Lindquist, Fidelity was first known to be involved in September 1998 after Northern Construction, owned by Ishwar Galbaransingh, received the contract for Package 3 (Building, Foundation and Structure).
On September 30, 1998, Northern Construction, as the lead member of the NYC Consortium, assigned to Fidelity "absolutely all sums that are or to become payable to the said Northern Construction Limited" in an agreement signed by John Henry Smith, a Director of Fidelity, and Ishwar Galbaransingh of Northern.
According to the report, Northern later signed a similar document for each contract it was awarded on the airport project. All funds due to Northern Construction were paid directly to Fidelity.
Lindquist found that "While the agreement indicates a banking relationship, the phrase "absolutely all sums" suggests a relationship beyond the normal course in third party relationships"
The Canadian investigator pointed out that all proceeds from the contracts awarded to Northern Construction (Packages 3, 5, 8, and 9) were assigned to Fidelity. "We don't know the disposition of these funds," the internationally-known investigator added.
Package 5 (Airside Paving); Package 8 -Site Utilities; and Package 9 - Building Enclosure and Interior Construction).
Lindquist pointed out that the only funds received from the Airports Authority by Northern Construction occurred on July 24, 2000 in the amount of $29 million. This amount represented the settlement of Northern's claim arising from the suspension of the NYC Consortium contract on Package 6 in March 1997. (This was after the project was stopped following an inquiry by Justice Lennox Deyalsingh in 1997).
Cabinet, according to Minute 758, dated April 26, 2000, approved the payment of Northern's claim. On July 27, 2000, a cheque in the amount of $28,898,720.65 was sent to Ish Galbaransingh, chairman of Northern Construction.
Calmaquip was awarded the contract for Package 13 in the amount of $183 million, which was 100 percent over the budget.
The other contractors received the following:
Thomas Peake and Company - 4 percent - $34M
Jusamco Pavers Limited - 4 percent - $34M
Seereram Brothers Limited - 4 percent - $34M
Electrical Trading Company Limited - 3 percent - $25M.
Engineering Services Consortium - 2 percent - $17M
Damus Roofing Systems Limited - 2 percent - $17M
Lindquist was mandated by the then Minister of National Security Joseph Theodore and former Attorney General Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj in September 2000 to assist the newly-inaugurated Anti-Corruption Unit of the Fraud Squad.
The specific targets were to examine the circumstances surrounding contractual arrangements made by certain Government/State entities in various areas.
During the course of the investigation into the airport project, Lindquist interviewed numerous witnesses and examined many documents. He received the relevant contracts as well as the process that was used to enter into these contracts.
The team spoke to a number of contractors and individuals who participated in the bidding process. He stated in his report that "while some of the individuals including employees of the Government agencies were less than cooperative, many provided valuable details and insight to some of the apparent irregularities."
Lindquist continued, "From all the information that we received from individuals to this point in time, and from all the documents that we have received, we believe that a group of individuals and corporations conspired together to control the award of contracts on this airport project."
He concluded that the award of the contracts was a fraud on the people of Trinidad and Tobago and an abuse of public funds.
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