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Rowley speaks on missing millions


TRINIDAD EXPRESS

Rowley speaks on missing millions

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OPPOSITION Leader Dr Keith Rowley yesterday accused Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar of having “no interest” in trying to find out what happened at the National Energy Corporation (NEC), where $60 million was illegally siphoned via a First Citizens account.

The matter was raised by Rowley at a political meeting in Malabar, Arima, on Thursday.

On Friday, the NEC confirmed $35 million had been recovered while the remainder was being held by the National Bank of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

The NEC further stated the Fraud Squad, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the Ministry of Energy were investigating, while one person has been convicted in Abu Dhabi.

Rowley, speaking yesterday after a rally by groups concerned with the State’s development plans for Chaguaramas, said Persad-Bissessar not only did not care to find out what had happened at the NEC but that she also appointed as Finance Minister the person who was in charge at both companies at the time of the incident.

Former banker and current Finance Minister Larry Howai was chief executive of First Citizens and NEC chairman at that time.

Rowley said the Prime Minister must be asked whether she knew of the incident.

He had earlier stated Persad-Bissessar was “pretending” to have no knowledge of the issue.

The matter of the $60 million from the NEC through First Citizens was disclosed through more e-mails, which Rowley released on Thursday.

He said yesterday, he did not have to prove the validity of these new e-mails, that being a job for the police.

Asked his opinion on remarks last week by Persad-Bissessar that People’s National Movement’s (PNM) MPs, who have boycotted the Lower House since Rowley’s suspension, should, like him, have their salaries taken away, Rowley retorted that the PM should be asked whether she gets paid for the days that she spends in her private home in Philipine, “incapacitated”.

Addressing the rally earlier on, Rowley said he believed the only way to save Chaguaramas was through a change of government.

He echoed comments made in the past few months by those opposed to Government’s plans for the peninsula – which aim to turn it into a recreation mecca – saying Government and the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) were involved in a land grab.

Rowley said the assets of the people were under threat of being placed, possibly in binding agreements, into private hands and would later be repackaged to the people in a manner that they would have to pay to use facilities.

Speaking on Chagville beach, with the Chaguaramas Convention Centre to his back, Rowley said the message must be sent to Government that the plans would not be accepted and that under no circumstances would the State be allowed to turn that beach into a water park.

He said some Government ministers, including Planning Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie and Transport Minister Stephen Cadiz, have claimed the PNM wanted the Convention Centre for itself.

Rowley said the party has not used that venue for a long time and has in the past paid up to $30,000 for a weekend to hold functions there.

He opened his address yesterday by saying that in spite of Government having thrown him “out of a building” he still held office as Opposition Leader, MP and as a citizen and was facing the crowd as that citizen.

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