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CA banks Govt $400M

By Clint Chan Tack Saturday, March 8 2008

WORKS AND Transport Minister Colm Imbert yesterday revealed that the US$63 million (TT$400 million) which the Cabinet agreed to provide Caribbean Airlines (CA) to acquire a private jet for an executive jet service is in a CA bank account.

Speaking in the House of Representatives, Imbert said no money has been paid to date to the owner of the jet, and this transaction would not happen until an anti-corruption clause agreed to in a contract “by all parties.”

Imbert’s disclosure to the Parliament that the money had already been transferred to the airline’s account differed from what he told a post-Cabinet media briefing at Whitehall on Thursday.

He had stated that CA sent a letter dated February 27 to the Ministry of Finance asking for US$63 million to purchase a jet under a jet leasing company which it proposed to set up.

Cabinet met the next day and agreed to the request, Imbert had said, but he never disclosed that the money had been transferred to the airline’s account between the time of its request and Thursday’s post Cabinet briefing. He informed reporters that the Cabinet had agreed to give the airline the money and insisted that it had not been paid to the manufacturer of the jet Bombardier and a contract with the company “had not been consumated.”

This, he again told the House but also disclosed the deposit had been made to CA. He did not tell the House, however, what were the terms of the allocation to CA, or from where the money had been sourced.

“I can stand here confidently and say that the money that was advanced to CA by way of Cabinet decision of February 28 where Cabinet considered the proposal from CA and Cabinet agreed to finance the project. The money that was advanced to CA...is in a CA bank account and has not been disbursed to the owner of the aircraft and will not be disbursed to the owner of the aircraft. I want to repeat this. This is what I said yesterday (Thursday news conference) this is what I want to say. It is in a CA account.”

Imbert gave this defence when challenged by Opposition Chief Whip Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj who said the controversy was reflective of the PNM’s insensitivity towards the population.

“Just now we will have a private yacht. Lies, lies and more lies!” Maharaj declared. Imbert repeated the contract with Bombardier would not be signed unless the company agreed to the anti-corruption clause adding, “we protect the integrity of the Government and we protect the interests of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”

He reiterated that the Bombardier Global XRS jet being considered for CA’s private jet service “was being manufactured for another client”, an American firm which could not complete the transaction. This development made the jet available.

“It was not being manufactured for the Government, no jet was ordered by the Government.”

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