Retired judge Sebastian Ventour will chair the Commission of Enquiry.

The Commission of Enquiry (CoE) into land acquisition for the Point Fortin Highway is expected to start sometime after Carnival, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said yesterday.

Al-Rawi, who commented briefly while at a Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting overseas, said the enquiry will be held at the Waterfront Complex in Port-of-Spain.

The enquiry, announced by Government last July, is headed by retired Justice Sebastien Ventour. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had said last December that the CoE would start in January “soon after Christmas.”

The probe stemmed from a Works Ministry report done on compensation for the project. The government claimed some peo­ple were paid for land that was no longer need­ed, oth­ers re­ceived mil­lion-dol­lar pay­ments and claimed more and some peo­ple in one house­hold were each com­pen­sat­ed for the same prop­er­ty.

It was al­so alleged that a per­son do­ing land val­u­a­tions “un­jus­ti­fi­ably” in­creased the val­ue of lands he had al­ready as­sessed.

The CoE is also expected to focus on whether a People’s Partnership (PP) ministerial oversight team headed by then prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar ful­filled its man­date.

The CoE will determine whether the PP breached any du­ties and whether crim­i­nal or civ­il pro­ceed­in­gs should be ini­ti­at­ed. A PP team presided over the project’s fund­ing, time-de­liv­ery and oth­er matters. Government claimed the PP com­mit­tee hired pri­vate en­ti­ties, in­clud­ing lawyers, to han­dle com­pen­sa­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions and some of it ap­peared “ex­ces­sive.”

Government sources said although public hearings haven’t started, CoE officials have in recent months been receiving documents and information on the project for their research.

The CoE team, comprising several other attorneys apart from Ventour, have also toured the facility at the Waterfront Complex where hearings will be held. Details for use of the area are being finalised before the CoE begins to use it.

Parliament relocated from 13 floors at the Waterfront Complex to the Red House recently. Those empty facilities are being converted to 24 courtrooms which will be completed at the end of May, Udecott has indicated.