Petrotrin procedures at fault, says company in ‘fake oil’ probe

(Trinidad Guardian) A and V Oil and Gas limited, through its attorneys, says any discrepancies between reported oil production in its Exploration and Production Operations and the actual production receipts at Pointe-a-Pierre is the fault of state-owned Petrotrin.

The company’s attorney Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC said A and V’s legal team had retained a Canadian Forensic Oil and Gas Expert with the equivalent skill and experience of Kroll Consulting Canada Company, the company used by Petrotrin for their forensic audit, to give an opinion on the Internal Audit Report which Petrotrin had relied on.

“That opinion shows there is no evidence that A and V committed any fraud or breach of contract or that A and V supplied any fake oil to Petrotrin,” Maharaj said. He, however, did not name the company hired by A and V’s Legal team.

In a media release on Saturday, Maharaj said if such discrepancies existed, it was the fault of Petrotrin and the systems and procedures it used to record the supply of crude oil from contractors to the Barrackpore Tank Farm.

The release further stated that discrepancies, if they existed, did not constitute fraudulent conduct or a breach of contract by A and V.

Maharaj’s release was a direct response to a statement released on Friday by Petrotrin, which said a forensic report by Kroll Consulting Canada Company had confirmed the report of an internal audit done by the company, which first highlighted discrepancies.

That internal audit was made public during a political party meeting by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and dubbed the “fake oil” fiasco.

In his release, Maharaj said the legal team looked forward to receiving copies of the Kroll report and the Gaffney Cline Report from Petrotrin tomorrow, so that “Petrotrin could point out specific findings of fraudulent conduct or breach of contract against A and V”.

He said if any findings had been made against A and V, the law required that A and V should be informed of the allegations and evidence prior to the publication of the report so A and V would have been given a meaningful opportunity to respond to the allegations and if necessary to adduce evidence to negative the allegations.

“If there are any such findings in the Kroll report and the Gaffney Cline Report it follows that such findings would be unlawful, null and void and of no effect as being contrary to the rules of natural justice.”

He said A and V had not been asked by Petrotrin to answer any allegations made by Petrotrin against it in its supply of crude oil to Petrotrin.

“Petrotrin has not provided to A and V any forensic or other report which shows that A and V committed any fraudulent or unlawful act in the supply of crude oil to Petrotrin nor has Petrotrin informed A and V of any breaches of contract committed by A and V.”

He further said Petrotrin had over the last few months withheld $70 million payment for crude oil supplied by A and V to Petrotrin even though A and V has demonstrated that it followed all the relevant procedures in the contract for the supply of crude oil to Petrotrin with the relevant Petrotrin officials signing appropriate custody transfer documents.

When contacted yesterday, to respond to A and V’s assertion that Petrotrin was to blame for any discrepancies, the company’s chairman Wilfred Espinet said he could not respond to any legal issues raised by A and V’s attorney.

He said, however, that the board’s main focus was to ensure Petrotrin was not disadvantaged in anyway and that the company would proceed as outlined in its press statement.

In Friday’s release, Petrotrin reported that it was committed to taking decisive action following independent confirmation of the discrepancy between reported oil production in its Exploration and Production Operations and the actual production receipted at Pointe-a-Pierre.

Petrotrin said the board intended to take the appropriate actions internally and to bring the matter to the attention of the relevant authorities.

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