T&T Sports Minister faces DPP probe

(Trinidad Guardian) Sport Minister Anil Roberts, his permanent secretary, Ashwin Creed, and special adviser to the T&T Boxing Board of Control (TTBBC), Boxu Potts, may have a case to answer as allegations of misbehaviour in public office against the trio have been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The move by the Integrity Commission comes a year after sacked board member Ricardo Phillip filed a complaint against the three, alleging misconduct and misbehaviour in public office.

In a letter dated March 14, Integrity Commission Registrar Martin Farrell wrote to Phillip saying the matter had been referred to DPP Roger Gaspard. The letter, headed “Investigation by the Integrity Commission into complaint against the TTBBC,” said the commission had completed its probe of the complaint.

“In keeping with the requirements of Section 31 (1) of the Integrity in Public Act, Chpt 22.01, the Commission has referred this matter to the DPP,” it added. Phillip had written to the commission on December 3, 2011, calling for an investigation into the alleged misappropriation of funds at the TTBBC relating to several events. In addition, Phillip also raised issue with a TT$1.9 million boxing card that was applied for by Potts’ son Giovanni, who is also a  boxing promoter, citing an apparent conflict of interest.

In his letter, Phillip complained he was sacked because he did not support the funding of the $1.9 million card for the Boxing Day 2011 event, which was scheduled for Jean Pierre Complex, Port-of-Spain. Phillip wrote: “This letter represents my complaints to members of the board with regard to the minister, the permanent secretary (Mr Creed) and Boxu Potts.

“It was sent to my fellow members two days after my refusal to support a boxing card for Mr Potts and his son. My position is in keeping with the laws of T&T and specifically the Integrity in Public Life Act Chpt 22.01.” Telephone calls and messages to Roberts and Creed went unanswered yesterday.

However, Potts, when contacted told T&T Guardian he had not yet been informed the matter had been referred to the DPP. He said: “I am not aware of it and I am not at liberty to talk about it. If that has happened I will let it take its legal course. “I have no feeling. I really do not know what to expect. They chips will have to fall where they have to fall. I really do not have any expectation of anything. I have nothing more to say.”

Contacted for comment yesterday, Phillip told the T&T Guardian he felt vindicated by the Integrity Commission’s move to refer the matter to the DPP. “All the facts are going to come out and the public will realise what we are saying all along,” he said. “The allegations were not vague or malicious. They are based on painful experiences of what we have seen and stood against. There are those who tried to discredit because we were interfering with things that did not concern us, but we believed in God and country first.”

Phillip said the move must send a message to both existing and aspiring politicians that there are those who refuse to stand by and turn a blind eye to corruption. “The Prime Minister did not act even though we sent information, but what in the dark always comes to the light,” he said. “The Prime Minister has reneged on the promise to citizens of T&T to ensure transparent and a corruption-free type of governance.

“I will like to commend the Integrity Commission for completing this matter, because many thought they had no teeth to investigate. They have showed a certain degree of fearlessness in the execution of their duties.” Only last week, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar wrote to former President George Maxwell Richards, advising him that President Anthony Carmona should be the one allowed to appoint a new Integrity Commission.

Boxu on the boxing card 

Anil Roberts
Anil Roberts

In an interview with the Sunday Guardian on December 10, 2011, Potts confirmed his son Giovanni had applied for the boxing card. Potts said then: “My son is a boxing promoter. There are five promoters in T&T and my son is free to apply for whatever card he wants in this country. It is not an allegation, my son has the right to apply for a boxing card.

“When a promoter applies for a boxing card they have to submit a budget. The boxing board would make a decision to recommend to the Ministry of Sports for funding. “A person can apply for $100 million, but it is the boxing board to recommend how much money they would give.” In a letter dated November 15, 2011, Giovanni, of Unified Promoters Boxing Association, wrote to former deputy chairman Yaqub Abdul-Haqq asking for funding for the card.

Days later, Phillip, Abdul-Haqq and board members Janet Dennis and Mala Nasib were all sacked. The board members were axed after they reportedly butted heads with Potts over several directives with which they failed to comply.

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