Investigators may have to extradite former executive chairman of the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) John Calder Hart, as he has moved to block criminal charges by severing all ties from this jurisdiction. The shocking new twist comes on the heels of the whopping $3,400,000 million selling price tag on Hart's sprawling mansion at #No 6 De Lima Road, Second Avenue, Cascade. A deed dated May 20, prepared by attorney Mark Laquis of Pollonais, Blanc, de la Bastide & Jacelon of Pembroke Street, Port-of-Spain was delivered anonymously to the Trinidad Guardian Head Office on Friday evening, in an unmarked envelope. The document stated, that Hart, who is listed as a company director and his wife Sherrine have agreed to sell the mansion at the price of $3.4million. The shocking development is not sitting well with Attorney General Anand Ramlogan who told the Sunday Guardian he would be urgently meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard for directions on how to proceed on the matter.
"I am extremely concerned about this development because criminal prosecution is only half of the justice to which the people this country may be entitled. The other half has to do with the recovery of ill�gotten gains. It is on the latter score that the selling of assets becomes a real concern. The former government had made it clear that Hart was allowed to leave our shores because his whereabouts were known at all times. In light of this development I shall request an urgent meeting with the DPP because the office of the AG has no investigative powers and the guidance of the DPP maybe needed so that the police can do what is necessary. In these circumstances, depending on the stage of the investigation and the state of evidence people should not be allowed to make a mockery of the system. Urgent expedition is needed in matters like these."
Ramlogan further added that he is contemplating new legislation with a view of expediting investigations involving allegations of political corruption and the establishment of a special court to fast track criminal trials involving public officials who are accused of fraud against the public purse. The three-storey mansion that is situated on 4,761 ft comprises of five bedrooms, five and a half bathrooms, television/family room, kitchen, laundry and carport/garage. On the ground and first floors of the mansion there are: a living/dining room, porch/balcony, two standing showers, six face basins, and five water closets. This is enhanced with a swimming pool measuring 16feet by 27feet. However, a valuation report by Linden Scott & Associates Limited stated while the mansion is outfitted with specially designed features and appears to be in good structural and decorative repair there is need for upgrade works.
It is suggested that the purchaser will have to clean, paint and upgrade the master bathroom. The report also recommended that ceiling tiles will have to be changed and other work is needed. In addition, the report stated that a quantity surveyor be retained to provide a precise assessment of the current reinstatement cost for insurance purposes. A lead investigator in the matter admitted to being surprised by the move, only saying: "This is very interesting. It is definitely a sign that he intends to cut ties with this jurisdiction. However, if he is selling out it does not mean that he is not coming back. He may have to be extradited in the event that he is wanted by the police for a particular offence and refuses to come back voluntarily. I am very surprised by this new development."
Several attempts to contact one of Hart's attorneys Devesh Maharaj and Udecott communications specialist Roxanne Staplethon-Whims proved futile yesterday.
Since Hart was forced out of office on March 5 he fled the country in the company of his wife Sherrine and daughter Ling Lee Singh, days after submitting his resignation. His two sons Chase and Ross remained at the mansion with the maid and caretakers. His resignation came days after documents allegedly linked his Malaysian-born wife and a company, which was awarded an $820 million contract by the Udecott board. He also stepped down from four State boards � the National Insurance Board, T&T Mortgage Finance Company, The National Insurance Property Development Ltd and the Home Mortgage Bank. The UFF Report stated that Hart was wielding more power than some politicians. Former Prime Minister Patrick Manning met with the then AG John Jeremie who informed him that Hart might have a case to answer arising out of the Commission of Enquiry. There has been an outcry that Hart may not return to T&T if he is faced with criminal charges.