Monday, December 10, 2012

From NEWSDAY: Monteil/PNM land deals

File: Andre Monteil
Former Clico Financial’s finance director L Andre Monteil was tied to a company which engaged in three land deals with the then PNM government and its officials in both Trinidad and Tobago between 2003 and 2009.

While Monteil straddled political and business life, serving as PNM treasurer, CLF official and PNM board-appointee, he remained a shareholder and director of Adelphi Estate Limited, a company which made several land sales to the PNM-controlled Tobago House of Assembly; the PNM Central Government in Trinidad and in one instance, the wife of a PNM minister. 

A Newsday probe has established that Adelphi engaged in the following transactions: 

  • sold 49-acres of Adelphi Estate at Mason Hall, Tobago, to the THA in 2008 for an “estimated” $13 million
  • sold 8.8 hectares of land — also part of the Adelphi Estate — to Sharon Rowley, wife of then Planning Minister Dr Keith Rowley, for $500,000 in 2003. This land was used to build the controversial Land Date housing development and
  • sold land to the central Government, which in 2009, passed a compulsory acquisition of land order in relation to ten hectares, also at Mason Hall. The land was acquired for $3.9 million

Company Registry documents list Monteil as a shareholder (1,025 shares out of 15,777 shares) and director of Adelphi. Other family members are also listed as shareholders. In May, the THA gave out leases to persons living on the land at the Adelphi Estate, Mason Hall. 

According to the Annestine Sealey report into the Land Date housing development at Mason Hall, Sharon Rowley bought the land on which Land Date was built from Adelphi.

“The lands at Land Date were purchased by Sharon Rowley from Aldephi Limited on August 7, 2003, for the sum of $500,000,” the report read.

“My wife bought the land from Adephi,” Diego Martin West MP and PNM Political Leader Dr Keith Rowley told Newsday in an interview in October. “That estate was owned by the Hendersons, Monteil’s family and that is a piece of land that was on a whole estate. But she bought from Adelphi Estate. Of what was left, later on the Government bought it for THA. So that was land that the Government bought from the same people my wife bought from.”

Rowley continued, “I don’t know if it was purchased from Mr Monteil. What is wrong with that? This is a piece of land that I grew up on. The land became available for sale. My wife was one of many others who bought piece of the land. That is a normal legal transaction. Of course the price was normal.”

In 2003 Rowley was a Cabinet minister, holding the portfolio of Minister of Planning. In 2009, the PNM passed a compulsory acquisition order in Parliament for ten acres of land. During debate on a motion in the Senate to approve acquisition of the land at Mason Hall, then Agriculture Minister Arnold Piggott said the land was acquired by the State for construction of the Mason Hall Secondary School.

He said the land at Adelphi Road, Mason Hall, “is said to belong now or formally to, Adelphi Estate” and made no mention of Monteil.

“It is inevitable, for the purposes of advancement in our country’s development, that the Government acquire land for public purposes despite the fact that the State owns approximately 53 percent of the land in the country,” Piggott said. “Today, this Government is presenting a motion before this honourable house that will facilitate yet another significant project for a public purpose.”

Rowley, in October said Monteil no longer plays any role in the PNM. Monteil will not have to testify at the ongoing Colman Inquiry into the collapse of CL Financial to answer any questions about his stewardship of the company or even the role of political affairs in CLF’s downfall.

Last Monday, Inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Colman ruled that Monteil, as well as former CLF executive chairman Lawrence Duprey, would be entitled to not testify at all given the privilege against self-incrimination. This came after the belated announcement of the start of a police probe into the collapse of Clico, three years after the fact.

Duprey, according to his lawyer Andrew Mitchell, QC, has sealed his defence to a civil lawsuit that was brought against him by the Central Bank alleging breaches of fiduciary duty during his tenure at CLF.

Last week, Mitchell, QC, applied, successfully, to Sir Anthony to allow Duprey to not be called to give evidence after a secret application to stop the inquiry was made by lawyer Edward Jenkins, QC, instructed by the Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC. Jenkins apparently communicated a broad scope of the ongoing police probe, with lawyers for the likely subjects of the probe present at the Winsure Building, Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain.

Because he will not take the stand, a witness statement submitted by Duprey in defence of all the allegations against him, will not be tendered into evidence. Mitchell is expected, at a later stage, to ask Sir Anthony to decline to make any adverse findings against Duprey on the basis of his non-attendance.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai