T&T gov’t company files cartel claim against ex minister Moonilal

Dr Roodal Moonilal

(Trinidad Guardian) The Estate Management and Business Development Company Ltd (EMBD) has filed its TT$200 million cartel claim against former housing minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, two former executives and a group of contractors.

The Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs made the announcement on Monday, a little over a month after allegations of corruption in the State-board were first raised by Government.

The release said: “EMBD has claimed, based on evidence gathered over the past 20 months, that these individuals and entities engaged in bid-rigging and cartel behaviour, support and/or encourage and/or permitted by persons in public office, including Moonilal, who at all material times was the line minister for EMBD, the former CEO of EMBD, Gary Parmassar and the former divisional manager of EMBD Madhoo Balroop.”

The other persons/entities the lawsuit was filed against are Andrew Walker, Fides Limited (Fides), Namalco Con-struction Service Limited (Namalco) and LCB Contractors Limited.

While the release said the claim was filed in the High Court, it admitted Moonilal and the other defendants were expected to be served between Monday and in the coming days.

The claim centres around 10 contracts for rehabilitation of roads in Caroni, which were granted to five contractors in the run-up to the September 2015 general elections.

Besides Namalco and Fides, the other contractors identified are TN Ramnauth and Company Ltd (TN Ramnauth), Mootilal Ramhit and Sons Contracting Ltd (Ramhit) and Kall Company Ltd (Kallco).

The others have already been served as it was filed as a counter-claim to their lawsuits against the State for well over TT$1 billion in unpaid contracts, which were performed separate and apart from those identified in the cartel claim.

Those cases and the State’s counter-claim are yet to be determined, having been filed last month.

“EMBD claims, inter alia, breach of fiduciary duty, cartel behaviour, bribery, collusion, knowing receipt, dishonest assistance and unlawful means conspiracy and is seeking against these defendants and the other contractors (who previous claims were filed), inter alia, certain declarations, damages in the hundreds of millions of dollars, equitable compensation, repayment of sums paid, an account of profits and interest,” the release said. The Government is alleging that Moonilal, Parmassar, Balroop and the contractors were part of a conspiracy to defraud the State through inflating costs and delivering incomplete work.

In a letter sent to acting Supt Yussef Alexander of the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau (ACIB) last month, Moonilal’s lawyer Israel Khan, SC, claimed the State’s claim is a fabrication by members of Cabinet. Khan had said Moonilal also reported the investigative irregularities to both acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams and the Police Complaints Authority (PCA). Former Housing Minister Roodal Moonilal on Monday described the latest move as “a fascinating development, it means that the Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and the Minister in the Office of the Attorney General Stuart Young have filed nothing but they have sent the EMBDC out to do their bidding.”

He said “the EMBD has become the second state entity to sue me in two years. CEPEP tried to injunct me from speaking and the matter was thrown out of court.”

But he said “the EMBD cannot sue a minister of government. It is the Attorney General who may take action against a former minister, but the EMBD cannot file action against the minister.”

“It is the AG as guardian of the public interest who may sue a former minister. But after all the talks for weeks and weeks it appears that the AG and junior AG duck and run and send a company that is a loss-making company to sue me.” Moonilal said he intend to fight the case.

“I assure them I am not God. I will have no mercy on them. I will claim damages from the AG himself because the EMBD operates in the red and cannot pay. If the EMBD cannot pay contractors how will they pay damages resulting from a court judgment?” he asked. He said the legal battle “will be a showdown between (Anand) Ramlogan and Al-Rawi finally. It will be a legal showdown and my bet will be with Ramlogan.”

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