Zoit Director worked for THA
By ANDRE BAGOO Friday, October 12 2012
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DIRECTORS: Keith King of Firstline Securities in St James and Port-of-Spain ...
MERVYN CAMPBELL, the lawyer listed as a director of Zoit Developers Ltd — the company which submitted an unsolicited $233 million proposal for an aquatics centre in Bacolet — received work from the Orville London-led Tobago House of Assembly (THA) in 2011.
According to checks by Newsday, Campbell was part of a legal team led by Deborah Peake SC retained in June 2011, by the PNM-controlled THA to give advice on bringing a case against Central Government over its establishment of an office in Tobago of the Community-based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP).
Months later, Zoit Developers Ltd would send a proposal for the aquatics project, according to a time-line enumerated by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in the Budget debate on Wednesday.
Campbell, an attorney based at 21 Stone Street in Port-of-Spain, did not take calls yesterday. When Newsday visited his office, staff said he was not in for the day. He was also not at his Fairways, Maraval home, where a woman said he was, “at work”.
Further checks showed that directors of Zoit Developers Limited are Campbell; businessman Keith King, businessman Lennox Lewis and Campbell’s former legal secretary Joanne Chaitan Forsyth.
King yesterday denied any affiliation to any political party but could not explain how Zoit came to send a bid for the project or give background on the company. “I have no political affiliation whatsoever to any party,” King said in a brief interview at his St James office where he runs Firstline Securities Limited.
“I have never even attended a political party.” Asked whether the Tobago project – which the firm submitted a multi million dollar bid for – was ever subject to an open tender process, he said, “I do not know.” He echoed the stance of THA Chief Secretary Orville London who said no contract has been awarded. “There is no contract and no agreement,” King said. “A proposal was made.”
“Whatever was done was done on the basis of legal advice. The advice came from the highest level.” Asked to elaborate, King declined. He said he would not speak further as he would seek legal advice. He confirmed that Campbell was part of, “the legal team.”
In Parliament on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said a letter of award was issued to the company by Anslem London, of the THA. This, Persad-Bissessar said, came mere months after the company was formed.
But while his co-director had some knowledge of developments, another Zoit director, businessman Lennox Lewis yesterday said he was unaware of even the name of the company and that it was operating.
“I don’t even know the name of the business,” Lewis said, in an interview at his Picton Street office at Port-of-Spain where he works, he said, as a consultant. “This is a big surprise. I do not know what the Prime Minister said.”
He said that last year, Campbell his schoolmate from elementary school, contacted him asking him to be the director of a company. The two had been reacquainted some time before.
“They wanted to go into development,” he said. He described Campbell as a respected attorney, but could not say who else was involved or behind the company. Lewis said since getting a MBA, a while ago, he has been asked to serve as a director on several companies.
“This is not unusual for me,” he said. Asked if he was aware of the duties of company directors, he said, “I am aware of the responsibility of directors.”
He could not explain how the company submitted a $233 million proposal to the THA or what expertise the company has in development.
Another director, Forsyth, referred all queries to Campbell - her former boss. Though she was listed as a legal secretary at Campbell’s firm at Stone Street in November 2011 – weeks before the proposal was sent to the THA in January 2012, according to Persad-Bissessar’s timeline – Forsyth said she left Campbell’s firm, “three or four” years ago. “Mr Campbell should be able to answer you. I am really unable to answer your questions,” she said. She said Zoit has been around “for some time.”
Further checks showed that while the company was only incorporated in November 2011, a precursor company, by the name of Zoit Company Limited, was incorporated since July 2008. One of Zoit Co. Limited’s directors and shareholders is also Campbell.