Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard yesterday confirmed that he had met with police officers from the Anti Corruption Investigation Bureau (ACIB) last week to discuss the half a billion-dollar corruption case involving the Estate Management and Business Development Company almost five years ago.
In response to a Whatsapp message from Guardian Media on the status of the case, which was exclusively reported on in the Sunday Guardian, Gaspard also indicated that the police had some additional work to complete on the case before they could lay charges against the prominent politician, former EMBD employees and the CEOs of at least four construction companies.
However, senior police sources confirmed that the ACIB which received help on the year and a half long case from the UK prosecution and investigation firm Edmonds Marshall Mc Mahon was close to having everything in order before they return to the DPP for further instructions.
Officers looked into the alleged pillaging of taxpayers’ money through a fraudulent scheme at the state entity. The probe revealed that a prominent politician “orchestrated a scheme that resulted in significant funds being secured and spent by the EMBD six weeks before the September 2015 general election amounting to a staggering $549 million.
In the police report, a man termed “the boss” with help from senior EMBD employees and a contractor concocted a series of road upgrade projects, known as C1-C10 roads, in the Caroni area and a note was sent to the Cabinet seeking approval for the works and funding long before an EMBD engineer even visited the site.
The man known as “the boss” instructed the senior EMBD employees to add a tenth road to the draft note which was sent to Cabinet on the basis that one particular contractor wanted to do the job. Investigators found there was no other justification provided for this job but the senior EMBD employee obliged.
Although investigators found that a note was submitted to the Cabinet on April 30, 2015, the project did not form part of the EMBD’s scope of work and companies owned by the boss’ close acquaintances were later invited to tender for the road contract.
By the time the tender process came up, according to investigators, the EMBD’s estimates for the cost of the roads had been arbitrarily inflated to $416,340,455 by a senior employee. This meant bidders could bid higher and the bidding companies colluded with one another to predetermine who won the contract. Police also found evidence of full bids information for two of the roads (C7&C8) dated before the bids had been submitted on the computer of one of the companies in question.
Investigators also found strong evidence that showed once work on the roads began, the companies allegedly submitted fraudulent claims for material not used or work not done. In one instance, a company also claimed $23 million for Guaracara boulders that were not used.
On Sunday night, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, speaking on a platform in Tobago, read extensively from the Sunday Guardian report and blamed the former administration for the alleged corrupt practices that took place at the EMBD.