On Saturday last attorney for A&V Drilling Company Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC held a media conference before a battery of media personnel at his Law Chambers in San Fernando. He accused the former Petrotrin Board of being grossly incompetent in dealing with A&V Drilling and the fake oil matter. He even accused them of displaying a rush to judgment and a certain degree of recklessness.
The purpose of the media conference was to bring members of the public up-to-date in respect of the production of the oil contract which Petrotrin had with A&V and which contract Petrotrin had terminated based on an Internal Audit Report. Petrotrin’s Internal Audit Report which showed that A&V Drilling had overstated the volume of crude oil sold to the company. Based on the contents of that Report Petrotrin has also withheld some $80m for crude oil already supplied by Petrotrin
On September 10th 2017 Political Leader of the UNC, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, at a political meeting, based on findings from the Internal Audit Report, alleged that A&V had supplied fake oil to Petrotrin and had fraudulently collected some $95m in the process. The Political Leader also stated that A&V Drilling owner, Haniff Nazim Baksh, was a personal friend of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, which the Prime Minister confirmed.
A&V’s lawyer contended that “the reports which Petrotrin has and which A&V lawyers have recently seen demonstrate that Petrotrin ought not to have terminated the contract and that there was no justification for Petrotrin to terminate the contract.” Maharaj further stated that “the information which A&V lawyers recently saw, therefore, shows beyond a reasonable doubt that A&V did not supply fake oil as alleged by Petrotrin” but instead supplied real crude oil.
He was critical of Petrotrin’s sloppy investigations and stated that the two firms on which Petrotrin relied on to terminate the contract – Kroll Consulting Limited and Gaffney Cline and Associates – left much to be desired especially since Cline did not conduct its own investigation.
Petrotrin had asked a third firm SGS Gulf Ltd to review the Internal Audit Report and the firm submitted its report on 22nd December 2017.
A third firm
What is interesting in that report, according to Maharaj, is that it concluded that Petrotrin ought to upgrade and modernise its equipment and that if it did not do so it “runs the risk of exposure and error and mis-measurement both of which are expensive and can dent the Company’s reputation.”
Maharaj concluded that the former Petrotrin Board of Directors has to take full responsibility for the substantial miscarriage of justice and will be liable to pay to A&V substantial damages amounting to over a billion dollars since Petrotrin had a duty based on the evidence to restore the contract even after it was terminated.
The former Board comprised the discredited Wilfred Espinet, Chairman, Reynold Ajodhasingh, Deputy Chairman, Anthony Chan Tack, Nigel Edwards, Joel Harding, Selwyn Lashley, Eustace Nancis, Linda Rajpaul and Randhir Rampersad.