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Cartel behaviour

Published: 
Monday, October 16, 2017
Young: State going after Moonilal, 5 firms
Gary Parmassa

Former housing minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, former Estate Management and Business Development Company Ltd (EMBD) CEO Gary Parmassar and five contractors will be facing civil action as Government moves to recover some $203 million which was allegedly obtained through white-collar crime.

Documents in connection with the matter have already been forwarded to the police, Minister in the Ministry of Attorney General and Legal Affairs Stuart Young said yesterday.

At a press conference at the Office of the Attorney General, Young identified the companies as TN Ramnauth and Company Ltd (TN Ramnauth), Mootilal Ramhit and Sons Contracting Ltd (Ramhit), Namalco Construction Services Ltd (Namalco), Fides Ltd (Fides) and Kall Company Ltd (Kallco), which was recently awarded the Churchill Roosevelt Highway extension to Manzanilla.

Young said the AG’s office has been working with a team of international and local professionals in the fields of forensic accounting and auditing for the past 20 months on the case. He said it involved the award of 10 contracts in August 2015 to a “hand-picked” five contractors for the upgrade and rehabilitation of certain Caroni roads.

Young said Namalco, TN Ramnauth, Kallco and Ramhit had started legal action against EMBD for recovery of monies allegedly owed to them for the work done. He said Namalco sued the EMBD on May 6, 2016 for over $1 billion while TN Ramnauth, Kallco and Ramhit filed their claims between April and May this year. He said the State is now counter-suing the firms, alleging the work claimed for was either shoddy or non-existent. In giving an example of some of the alleged activity, Young said the winning price to paint a metre of road was awarded at between $32 to $42.

“The losing bids, however, were from between $440 to $800 for the same metre of road,” Young said.

Young said as a result of the work forensic work conducted, evidence had been unearthed which supports a conclusion of “bid-rigging and cartel behaviour amongst these five contractors, supported and or encouraged and or permitted by persons in public office, including the former Minister of Housing Dr Roodal Moonilal, who at all material times was the line Minister for EMBD,” Young said.

He said Parmassar and former EMBD divisional manager Madho Balroop were also allegedly “implicated in this elaborate scheme,” which was “executed” in August 2015 and led to over $200 million being disbursed to these “hand-picked” five contractors between July 2015 and the general elections of September 2015.

Young also alleged forensic work uncovered text/SMS and other messages being sent and received by Parmassar to cellular numbers registered to Moonilal, Taradauth Ramnauth, one of the principals of Kallco, and one of the principals of Namalco, Naeem Ali. This communication, he said, allegedly provided “evidence of cartel behaviour, bribery, collusion, knowing receipt and dishonest assistance and unlawful means conspiracy.”

“These text messages include messages from the phone number registered to Dr Moonilal instructing Mr Gary Parmassar to prepare cheques for tens of millions of dollars to these contractors and to bring the cheques to him, as the former minister, once prepared.

“They also show Mr Taradauth Ramnauth organising a HDC house for Mr Gary Parmassar, telling him who to award contacts from EMBD to and how much to pay these identified contractors,” Young claimed.

He said as a result of work carried out, EMBD, with the support of the AG’s Office, filed defences and counter-claims against TN Ramnauth and Kallco last Thursday.

In an immediate response yesterday, Namalco attorney Om Lalla said Young’s claims were nothing short of political mischief.

He denied Young’s claim that Namalco had sued EMBD for over $1 billion in May last year and the case was stayed in the High Court yesterday.

Rather, he said an application was made to stay two of the six contracts, which represents 10 per cent of the total claim, and the company plans to proceed with the other four.

Saying the company was yet to be served with legal documents, Lalla said, “We can successfully argue the cartel claim as well as any conspiracy theory. This is nothing short of a delay for work legitimately done and to create a political issue.”

He added: “It is interesting to note that they have raised all the criminal elements in a civil matter.”