PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad. Mar 19, CMC – Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi Tuesday dismissed a call by Opposition Leader Kamla Persad Bissessar for the police to conduct a criminal probe into his activities amid allegations that he had breached sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and misbehaviour in public office.
Addressing a public meeting of her United National Congress (UNC) on Monday night, Persad Bissessar said that Al-Rawi, along with his wife, are the owners of a building being leased to the government for the price of TT$644,000 (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) per month for three years.
“The rental of this property, that was bought for TT2.5 million dollars will put TT$23,184,000 in the pocket of some people,” she told the meeting, adding “so, the attorney general and his wife with their two ordinary shares worth two dollars, will, by this transaction go laughing to the bank with 23 million dollars of your taxpayers’ dollars”.
But in an immediate response, Al-Rawi said that the agreement was all above board adding “let me make it clear I am a person in public life (and) I expect I will be subjected to public scrutiny and I prepare myself for that at all points in time”.
“The Companies Registry is a public record. The Ministry of Public Administration is a public record,” he said, adding that he would allow his lawyers to listen to the claims made by the opposition leader during her meeting that was broadcast on radio and television.
Al-Rawi said he was not perturbed at the call by the opposition leader for a criminal probe into the transaction saying “that’s all hogwash and fanciful”.
“Really, Mrs. Persad Bissessar’s indictment is against the entire Cabinet in Trinidad and Tobago. What is the misbehaviour?” he said, insisting that he had declared his interest in the matter that had occupied Cabinet for more than a year.
“I recused myself at every opportunity,” he added.
Persad Bissessar said she wanted to thank “the public-spirited citizen” who made documents available to her regarding the transaction, saying “according to the documents I have here, the note that was taken to Cabinet for the lease of this building was dated the 12th February 2019″.
“It was considered and agreed to by Cabinet on the 14th February 2019, only two days later. When this note was taken to Cabinet only the first page of the annual return was annexed to the note so that the Cabinet would have seen who were the directors but not who were the shareholders,” she said.
“The attorney general must tell the country why was the Cabinet who were making a decision to rent a building for more than 23 million dollars was not told that the building belonged to him and his wife,” she said, adding “not only is the AG apparently heavily conflicted, but the entire Cabinet which approved this transaction would be guilty if they knew and chose to facilitate it”.
“Tonight, I call on all Cabinet ministers present at the Cabinet when this matter was discussed to state whether they were aware of this potential conflict when they approved this transaction. Are you innocent or guilty?
“I call upon the commissioner of police to launch an immediate investigation into this matter for breaches of the Prevention of Corruption Act and misbehaviour in public office. I shall be bringing this matter to the attention of the Integrity Commission,” she told supporters.