Two former government ministers and several senior officials of the Ministry of Sport continue to be the focus of a probe by police into allegations of corruption into LifeSport and the Estate Management and Business Development Company Ltd (EMBD).
This is confirmed in a Status Report of the Investigations compiled by the T&T Police Service which confirmed that warrants are being obtained to search certain premises and some offices have already been searched.
The Sunday Express understands that a team of forensic experts from the United Kingdom have been in Trinidad working alongside detectives of the Anti-Corruption Investigative Bureau (ACIB).
A team of seven police officers in the Special Investigations Unit of the TTPS are currently assigned to the investigation.
The contracts of the forensic experts come to an end this month, the Sunday Express understands.
The probe into LifeSport started following a series of Sunday Express investigative exclusives.
According to the police Status Report, earlier this year the TTPS obtained in excess of 25 Production Orders against individuals and banking organisations and interviewed many witnesses, “which has generated valuable new evidence in support of the allegations”.
A Production Order is a judicial authorisation that compels a person, including an organisation, to disclose documents and records to an authorised officer.
“The new evidence has uncovered clear bribes paid to public officials in return for favours and large kickbacks to high-level public officials who were alleged to be at the forefront of the corruption,” the document states.
According to investigations thus far, “it is alleged that a number of persons from the Ministry of Sport, the Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago and contractor companies associated with the delivery of the LifeSport Programme were involved in various conspiracies to misappropriate funds allocated to the programme for their own use and benefit.
“A total sum of $349,500,000 was allocated to LifeSport between 2012 and 2014, funded through a combination of budgetary allocations made by the Ministry of Sport and bank loans, done in consultation with the Ministry of Finance and the Economy.
“A significant portion of those funds are alleged to have been misappropriated by many individuals at all levels of the programme. This includes a number of high-ranking public officials allegedly tunnelling millions of dollars out of the programme to purchase real estate, boats, vehicles and to fund weddings, amongst other things,” it states.
Investigations into the alleged fraud, corruption and misconduct in public office within the LifeSport programme commenced in 2015 and so far one suspect “has been assisting the TTPS with the investigation, providing key information about how the programme was manipulated to enable so many individuals to obtain personal benefits to the detriment of the people of Trinidad and Tobago”.
It is suspected that a top former government official “orchestrated a scheme that resulted in significant funds being secured and spent by EMBD in the six weeks before the general election on 7th September 2015, approximately $549 million”.
The official, the document added, was able to implement the fraudulent scheme with the assistance of EMBD’s companies owned by his apparently close acquaintances which were invited to tender for a road contract.
“By the time the tender had come around the EMBD’s estimates for the cost of the roads had been arbitrarily inflated to $416,340,445 by (name called). This meant the bidders could bid higher.
At a news conference on July 1, Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith confirmed that investigations into LifeSport and EMBD were ongoing.
He said, “What we can state is that there is an investigation pertaining to an issue, be it EMBD, LifeSport, CLICO or so whatever. But we should not be stating or telling persons that that individual is being investigated or he is not being investigated.”
In 2016, Justice Mira Dean-Armorer quashed the report of the Ministry of Finance’s 2014 central audit committee report into LifeSport.
In her judgment, Justice Dean-Armorer ruled that the report should be sent back to the audit team and did not find favour with the argument that the audit team acted irrationally or in bad faith.
The 54-page report concluded there was poor monitoring and control of the LifeSport programme by the Sport Ministry, there may have been breaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act—and police information suggested criminal elements may have supervised and co-ordinated LifeSport.
On July 25, 2014, then-prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced the termination of LifeSport in Parliament.
She said the findings of the audit team included procurement breaches; a deviation from the mandates of cabinet; involvement of some persons in criminal activities; fraud by suppliers; theft of equipment; breaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act; and poor control and monitoring by officers of the Sports Ministry.
Then-sport minister Anil Roberts subsequently resigned from the cabinet and as D’Abadie/O’Meara MP on July 31, 2014.