By Gail Alexander www.guardian.co.tt
The Anti-Corruption Bureau conducted investigations into a series of short-term deposits totalling $138 million made by the National Lotteries Control Board with Fidelity Finance and Leasing.
The NLCB had included a person accused in relation with the airport project, junior Finance Minister Conrad Enill said yesterday.
He alluded to links between the NLCB, at one time, and Fidelity Finance and Leasing while replying in the Senate yesterday to an Opposition question.
Fidelity Finance is one of several companies on corruption charges related to the estimated $1.6 billion Piarco Airport project.
Several breaches of the National Lotteries Control Board Act committed by officers of the NLCB board between 1998 and 2001 were under investigation by the relevant authorities, Enill added.
He also said a former minister gave the NLCB the authority to make donations for sponsorships.
That was being investigated to see if it was in violation of the Act, he added.
Enill was answering an Opposition question which called for the government to give details on NLCB sponsorship and on the briefs and payments made by NLCB to the law firm of Alexander, Jeremie and Co Ltd.
Attorney General John Jeremie was a partner with the firm.
Enill said the NLCB sponsored 164 events between January 2002 to March at a cost of $3.6 million.
He listed various steelband and Carnival events, Phagwa, Divali and Indian Arrival Day functions.
According to part of his reply, given in writing, the highest figure provided by the NLCB was $225,000 for Caribbean Prestige Promotionsí Soca Monarch 2003 show.
He said the NLCB paid the law firm of Alexander Jeremie and Co $362,220 for investigations into the NLCBís operations between 1998 and 2001.
He said the firm was one of two retained by the NLCB to investigate certain matters connected with the operations of the board in 1998, 1999 and 2001.
"The investigations showed several instances of breaches of the Act by officers of the board which are at present under investigation by the relevant authorities," Enill said.
He said the firm was briefed on two matters.
"One concerned investigations by the Anti-Corruption Bureau in September 2003 into series of short-term deposits owned by NLCB with Fidelity Finance and Leasing.
"The sum so deposited amounted to $138 million and the legal question was whether the board had the power to make any of these deposits in view of the provisions of the NLCB Board Act, which required certain of the boardís funds to be paid into the consolidated fund."
"Of concern to the bureau was the presence on the NLCB, as a director, a person accused in relation with the airport project," Enill said.
The second matter was the question of whether the NLCB had the power to make donations.
UNC senator Wade Mark asked if the donations being distributed as sponsorship by the NLCB were illegal and if the NLCB was in violation of Section 23.
Enill said that matter came to his attention.
"There is a letter on file giving the NLCB board the authority to do donations, by a letter from a former finance minister."
He said part of the issue was also whether that authority and the way it was conferred, was in violation of the Act.
Enill said Alexander, Jeremie and Co had obtained ten legal briefs for 22 matters from the NLCB.
The total paid to the firm between January 2002 and March was $672,866 comprising legal briefs and the investigation into the NLCB.
No retainer was paid by the NLCB between 2002 and this year. He said the firm was one of a group of lawyers used by NLCB.
UNC senator Robin Montano took issue with the list of NLCB sponsorship, saying he hadnít seen "one Indian" on the list except for Balroop Sound Systems.
Enill said the procedures established to grant sponsorships had been identified and followed.
Montano also questioned why the NLCB was assisting Citadel Broadcasting Ltd with $11,500.
He said said Citadelís CEO was Louis Lee Sing. He wondered if there was any declaration of conflict of interest since Lee Sing is also the NLCB chairman.
Enill said the sum was for a UTC/FCB symposium.
Montano also questioned why the NLCB sponsored firms such as Carib Brewery.
Enill said the NLCB often assisted companies with big events.
©2003-2004 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited
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