Some 24-hours after new Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard ordered a police probe into allegations of wrongdoing by former executive chairman of the Urban Development Corporation of T&T (Udecott) Calder Hart, Attorney General John Jeremie said a criminal investigation into Hart began since last year. Jeremie said Prime Minister Patrick Manning and himself were aware of the probe, which was being conducted by Canadian forensic expert Robert Lindquist and included an officer from the Special Anti-Crime Unit of T&T (Sautt) and David West, of the Central Authority, which operates with the Ministry of the Attorney General. Jeremie made the revelations during a hastily-arranged news conference at his Cabildo Chambers office in Port-of-Spain yesterday.
He said Lindquist's terms of reference included:
1. the Ministry of Legal Affairs Towers in Port of Spain–which is being constructed by Sunway, a Malaysian company in which Hart is said to have family links with two directors.
2. The Tarouba Development project, which includes the Brian Lara Cricket Stadium in south Trinidad.
"While the Government was prepared to await the findings of the Commission of Enquiry into the Construction Sector before initiating action, once Udecott commenced legal action in September 2009, which had the potential to delay or frustrate the Commission's work, already thrown into doubt by the failure to gazette the commission, the Attorney General thought it necessary to protect the public's interest," Jeremie said. "A criminal investigation was therefore launched on September 21, 2009, with the appointment of forensic investigator Bob Lindquist and with the assistance of the Special Anti-Crime Unit of T&T." Jeremie said the investigators had been working assiduously and a preliminary report was already submitted to him. He also said after last week's publication of documents which purported to confirm links between Hart and officials of Sunway, he sought and received written legal opinion at 9 am on Friday.
The Congress of the People released documents to the media which claimed that Hart had direct family ties to two directors of Sunway. Hart has repeatedly denied any links to officials of the company. Jeremie said he "immediately communicated with the DPP and the Commissioner of Police on Friday last and advised them of the need to pursue certain urgent lines of inquiry." He said he also gave certain advice to Prime Minister Patrick Manning on the development. He admitted that his advice was based on the assumption that the documentary evidence that was published in the newspaper was authentic. He said a preliminary report on the matter had already been submitted and a final report was being worked on.
Jeremie said the Prime Minister would have spoken with Hart, and the former Udecott executive chairman resigned and left the country the next day. He said Hart was due to return to T&T before the end of the month. "The question which law enforcement has to determine to move forward with any sort of charge is whether or not the documents are authentic," he said. "That is a function of the Central Authority and that is all I can say for the time being... the Central Authority is doing its work. He said the report was submitted to him last week.
No need to investigate Guanapo church – AG
And Jeremie says he does not see the need to investigate the construction of a church at the heights of Guanapo in Arima. He said the church is owned by a private entity and the Shanghai Construction Group was a private company.
He was asked to comment on the matter yesterday. He said: "So that, no. I do not see a need to investigate the church. I don't think there is sufficient (evidence), certainly from where I stand."