Colm Imbert

(flashback)‘above board’: Finance Minister Colm Imbert at a news conference on Tuesday at his office in the Eric Williams Financial Complex in Port of Spain.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert told the Senate on Tuesday that Petrotrin and Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Ltd used established and transparent procedures to select individuals and firms to provide advisory and support services to source and secure TPHL’s US$720 million loan in 2018.

The loan was used to partially refinance the US$850 million Petrotrin bond that matured in August 2019.

Responding to a question on the US$720 million loan, Imbert said in September 2018, on the cusp of the November 2018 deadline for the US$850 million bullet payment, requests for proposals were issued to 20 potential financial services firms and consortiums for the provision of banking, financial and technical services.

Four proposals were shortlisted: Credit Suisse/First Citizens/Bladex; Morgan Stanley/Ansa Merchant Bank; Goldman Sachs; and Citibank. The firms and consortium made presentations to a selection committee of the board and management, after which the Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley consortiums were selected for consideration of the tenders committee and were thereafter chosen to provide banking, financial and technical services.

TPHL contacted several major law firms with energy sector experience for the provision of legal services and Thomas, Hobsons and Paul Hastings was contracted to provide legal services for securing of the US $720 million loan facility.

The Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley consortiums were paid directly from the proceeds of the financing. The procedures used to secure all services were regulated by the State Enterprise Performance Monitoring Manual as well as the company’s internal policies and procedures.

Responding to a question for oral answer from Independent Senator Paul Richards in the Senate on Tuesday, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said he was advised by the Central Bank that as of January 31, 2020, the value of $7.525 billion in paper-based $100 old notes was exchanged.

That would be approximately 94 per cent of the estimated $8 billion in paper-based notes that were in circulation prior to demonetisation of the notes.

Asked by Richards whether there was any mechanism to identify and collect the remaining six per cent (of old notes), Imbert said: “I wish I could find that out too. I would love to know who has that missing $500 million. I assume through a process of auditing, in terms of bank notes that would have been sent to the commercial banks, it may be possible to discover who has that extra $500 million. It would be very labourious. Perhaps the police, FIB, FIU may be investigating this matter as we speak,” he said.

Questioned further, Imbert said he believed that this money was in the country. He said since T&T’s currency has no value outside of the country, he would have to assume that the money is somewhere in T&T.

“And I would not take the bait from my friends around me [Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi who was seated next to him] and say that it is buried under somebody’s house... But I think most of it would be here,” he said.

Imbert had earlier stated that 96 million new $100 notes had been ordered from De La Rue International Ltd, the supplier. The Central Bank received to date 80 million. He said the Central Bank would take delivery of the other 16 million notes as and when required to change out the old notes.

He said the polymer notes lasted seven years while the old notes lasted two to three years.

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