Saturday 28 November, 2020

Seek to extradite them, suggests PNP about potential Petrojam accused

The People’s National Party (PNP) wants extradition proceedings to be used, where necessary, to ensure that persons living overseas who may be implicated in the long-running Petrojam scandal and are ruled for prosecution, are made to face the courts locally.

In a 215-page report on the operations at the oil refinery that was tabled in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, the Integrity Commission named several persons whom it suggested may have been guilty of committing various corruption-related offences. Among them are former Energy Minister, Dr Andrew Wheatley, who has since blasted the report; former Petrojam Chairman, Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh; former General Manager, Floyd Grindley; and head of the Procurement Unit, Ronique Budram-Ford.

Both Grindley and Bahadoo-Singh reside in the United States.

With that in mind, the PNP is urging the relevant agencies to use the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) to request, where necessary, the extradition of any person who is ultimately ruled for prosecution.

Grindley has been accused of repeated breaches of the refinery’s procurement guidelines, but has been overseas since July of 2018 when the scandal broke locally.

He has been cited by the commission for possibly breaching the Commission of Enquiry Act by failing to respond to questions from its director of investigations in a timely manner.

A person who contravenes subsection (1) or (2) of the Commission of Enquiry Act, is deemed to have committed an offence, and is liable on summary conviction before a parish judge, to a fine not exceeding $1 million or, in default of payment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months.

During deliberations of various parliamentary oversight committees in 2018, it was stated that Bahadoo-Singh had claimed for several overseas trips on which he should have represented Petrojam. However, he reportedly did not make the trips, and has since paid back some of the money that was claimed.

The Integrity Commission also suggested that Wheatley was less than truthful in his responses to its director of investigations, and may have committed perjury in the process.

The PNP, in a statement issued by its General Secretary, Julian Robinson, on Wednesday, called for the “expeditious and persistent pursuit of those referred to prosecutorial agencies by the Integrity Commission in its report on the… of PetroJam, whether domiciled in Jamaica or overseas.

"Let the chips fall where they may; this Government has been operating as if taxpayers’ money is… while critical public services such as the police force, the public hospitals and too many of our schools cannot find basic resources to improve the quality of service to our people,” added Robinson.

He further stated that the report on the nation’s sole oil refinery “Recites a litany of scandalous, nepotistic, corrupt, and criminal behaviour, as well as monumental administrative breaches…

 “They are accused of weaving a massive and intricate web of corruption…,” Robinson further remarked.

The PNP pointed to several “big-ticket items”, including the perimeter wall, the improper use of the emergency and direct contract facility in breach of the Government’s procurement guidelines, and the Vacuum Distillation Unit Project (VDU), which it said were not mentioned in the Integrity Commission report.

The party expressed hope that the commission will be able to examine those issues and provide additional information to the public.

Robinson said the party was disappointed in the prime minister’s appointment of former Scotiabank executive, Ike Johnson, to the Petrojam Review Committee when it should have been known that Johnson had been involved in aspects of decision-making at PetroJam under the former minister.

“The party calls on the prime minister to ensure that appropriate legislative, regulatory and policy changes, as well as changes recommended by the Integrity Commission, are implemented forthwith, to ensure there is no repetition of the scandalous behaviour… at Petrojam,” Robinsion concluded.

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