A&V Oil, the company at the centre of the 2017 “fake oil” scandal, has won its arbitration and is set to take home close to $1 billion.
And to top off that massive win, the company’s attorney, former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj is also calling the judgement to be laid in Parliament. He also called for an apology from Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
But in a response yesterday, the United National Congress (UNC)said it is not “rattled” by the decision in any way.
Persad-Bissessar first ventilated the matter in the public domain in September 2017 during one of the UNC’s Monday Night Forum sessions. At that time, she said that the company’s owner, Nazim Baksh was a close, personal friend of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
Maharaj yesterday confirmed that he had won the case and that the now-defunct Petrotrin had lost.
“That is correct,” he said.
Maharaj said he had just had surgery on his eye and wasn’t able to read the judgement as yet.
“But what I could talk to you about is the implications of the judgement,” he told Guardian Media yesterday.
“The origin of the case against A&V was that the leader of the Opposition made an allegation based on an audit report which was really not a complete audit report,” he said.
“It was a preliminary report, it was unsigned by one of the auditors and the public statement was to the effect that A&V was getting paid by Petrotrin for fake oil,” he said.
Maharaj said that when Persad-Bissessar brought it to the public, the premise was that the owner of A&V was close friends with the Prime Minister and that the Government was corrupt for allowing the company to get paid for fake oil.
“I wrote a letter to Petrotrin pointing out that those allegations are without foundation and they should ignore it. Petrotrin ignored my letter,” he said.
Petrotrin instead brought in two foreign forensic auditors, Kroll Consulting Canada Co and Gaffney, Cline & Associates, to conduct the audits. Both reports found A&V to be culpable and Petrotrin terminated that contract.
“I warned Petrotrin that this would cost the taxpayers a lot of money,” he said.
“I think that the Government has a responsibility to lay that judgement in Parliament because the Opposition at the time alleged that my client was in conspiracy with the PM and the PM was in conspiracy with him,” Maharaj said.
“It was a major political condemnation of the PM and my client, the country deserves to see that the allegations had no merit. Petrotrin lost on every issue,” he said.
According to the documents, the decision was taken by arbiters Sir Dennis Byron, former president of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Lord David Hope and retired CCJ judge Humphrey Stollmeyer.
Petrotrin selected Stollmeyer, while Maharaj selected Byron and both agreed to utilise Hope.
Petrotrin was shuttered back in 2018 and dismantled into three separate entities under the Trinidad Holding Company umbrella.
During a news conference yesterday, UNC Deputy political leader David Lee said, “All the leader of the Opposition did like we all do as Opposition members is to bring to the fore, just like as we do with COVID-19, get information and bring it to the population. It is for the Government to take it further and be transparent with the country.”
Guardian Media reached out to the Minister of Energy and Energy Industries for a comment on the matter but no response was forthcoming.