OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has written to Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith calling for the perseverance of the criminal investigation into the "fake oil" scandal.
She expressed concern that people allegedly involved in criminal conduct in the matter surrounding A&V Oil and Gas Ltd and Petrotrin will escape the law with the move to shut down the Petrotrin refinery.
“It has come to my attention that in preparation for the closure of the refinery, electronic documents, critical reports, statistical data sheets, technical timeline data surveys and confidential employee statements have gone missing and/or are being removed and systematically destroyed,” stated Persad-Bissessar in her letter dated September 19.
“Such actions carry the real risk of compromising the ongoing criminal investigation by various organs of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. Equally serious is the fact that such actions amount to the commission of further criminal offences including but not limited to the obstruction of an ongoing criminal investigation and perverting the course of justice,” she added.
Persad-Bissessar stated that this development was even more disturbing in light of recent revelations at the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago which only this week reported that files and documents have recently been discovered missing.
“These actions are clearly designed to undermine and impede the actions of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service in lawfully carrying out their duties on behalf of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago,” she continues, “Those who are responsible for these actions are in breach of the criminal law and should face the most serious sanctions.”
She emphasised the critical importance of these investigations to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
“Those who have used their political connections to syphon and secret unlawfully that which belongs to the people of this country must be brought to justice and must not be allowed to escape the reach of the law," she stated.
This evidence, she stated, will be crucial to any prosecution that may arise from investigations into these matters, and failure to do so will allow those who may be in breach of the law to escape the reach of the law and will amount to the greatest injustice to the citizens.
Persad-Bissessar reminded that a report from Petrotrin's audit committee found that the State company would have overpaid A&V Oil and Gas Ltd US$ 11.5 million.
The former prime minister noted in her letter that on January 12, the Energy Minister stated that the matter of the alleged criminal conduct of A&V Oil and Gas Ltd was referred to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions by the board of Petrotrin in November 2017.
“I was deeply disturbed and troubled when this announcement was made for the simple reason that under section 90 of the Constitution, the Director of Public Prosecutions is not vested with any power to investigate criminal conduct for the purpose of making a determination of whether there has been an infringement of the criminal law justifying prosecution,” Persad-Bissessar stated. “If the board of Petrotrin were not aware of the absence of any investigatory powers in the Office of the Director of Prosecutions that is troubling, and if they were aware it would be cause for even greater concern.” she stated.
She noted that no explanation has been provided to the public by the Energy Minister as to the reason this matter was not referred to the Office of the Commissioner of Police for an immediate criminal investigation to be commenced.
Persad-Bissessar stated that despite the failure of the Petrotrin board to refer this matter to the TTPS, it is understood that the police have started an investigation.
She stated further her expectation that this investigation would engage the attention of the Fraud Squad, the Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Criminal Investigation Department of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.
“This matter is one of great public interest and concern, not only because of the quantum of money involved but more so because it is alleged that there existed a calculated, intentional and deliberate fraudulent scheme to defraud the Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd of funds that belong to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago,” the Opposition Leader said. “Further, upon the facts of this matter being placed in the public domain, the Honourable Prime Minister made public statements confirming that the principal of A&V Oil and Gas Ltd was his friend... The Prime Minister’s statements were very unfortunate given that these matters would have to necessarily engage the attention of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service,” stated Persad-Bissessar.
“Such statements have the potential to give the impression to the fair-minded and informed observer that such persons would be afforded preferential treatment from the authorities,” she added. “Such actions on the part of the Honourable Prime Minister will certainly result in the undermining the already low confidence that the population has in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.”