The Attorney General Faris A-Rawi and the Minister of National Security long list of “recusals” from Cabinet Meetings because of CONFLICT OF INTEREST matters.
Stuart Young recused himself on a least 57 occasions!
An application was made under the Freedom of Information Act seeking information about matters that came before the Cabinet in which Minister Stuart Young was forced to recuse himself because he had a conflict of interest. I am pleased to say that we have finally been able to obtain that information from the Cabinet secretariat and what it reveals is shocking.
Stuart Young was forced to recuse himself from some 57 meetings of the Cabinet due to possible conflict of interests. Can you imagine that? That the Cabinet sat and deliberated over matters concerning hundreds of millions of dollars and a single government minister was so conflicted that he had to excuse himself from 57 meetings.
Do you know what those meetings were about? Well tonight I will tell you the vast majority of them had to do with the financing of government projects and the award of multi-million dollar contracts to companies in which Stuart Young’s brother Angus Young was involved.
Let me give you some examples:
a. In 2018 NCB Global Finance was awarded the mandate to arrange a loan in the sum of $180M (One Hundred and Eighty Million Dollars) for UDECOTT.
b. In 2019:
i. NCB Global Finance awarded the mandate to arrange a fixed rate bond for TT $400M to facilitate the repayment of an existing MTS loan.
ii. NCB Global Finance awarded the mandate to provide a US $25M fixed rate loan facility to refinance a government guaranteed loan for Petrotrin.
c. In 2020, this year alone,
i. NCB Global Finance awarded the mandate to arrange a fixed rate bond in the amount of up to $1.5B (One and a half Billion dollars) for the purpose of providing budgetary support for the fiscal year 2020.
ii. NCB Global Financed awarded a mandate to provide a TT $125M (One Hundred and Twenty Five Million Dollars) fixed rate loan for WASA
iii. NCB Global Finance awarded a mandate to provide a TT $125M (One Hundred and Twenty Five Million Dollars) fixed rate loan for the purpose of financing WASA’s liabilities.
Yuh hear money? Dat is money! From millionaire to billionaire, PNM style.
In just two years (2018-2020), NCB Global Finance was responsible for approximately $2.5 Billion dollars in government transactions to raise financing for this PNM administration both as a lender and an arranger.
So, when the loan was too big for it to handle – as it often was – this company went out to source funds for the government and earned a percentage of the loan as income. So, it was getting interest for the loans made to the government and a commission for other loans that it arranged.
Its asset base increased from $132 million to $600 million from 2015 to 2019. In this same period its net profit increased from $3 million to $20 million! That is a staggering, mind-blowing 650% increase in profits after just 4 years of PNM rule! Imagine what will happen if they get another 5 years!!
You think Young sharing that money with any poor people from Laventille or the Beetham?! Who is benefitting from all that money? Not you and me, but Stuart Young and his family! From millionaire to billionaire, PNM style.
Why would the state go to a small financial firm such as NCB to arrange for and raise financing when it could go to a commercial bank? Our banks have an asset base locally ranging from between $25 billion to over $40 billion.
The excess liquidity in the banking sector over 2015 to 2019 has fluctuated between $3 and $4 billion, and now stands at approximately $10 billion!
Our banks certainly have the capacity to lend to the state given their asset base and capital. It is doubtful whether NCB, on the other hand, with a much smaller asset base has the capacity to lend to the state, especially for massive debt financing loans amounting to $1.5 billion. This was the value and magnitude of the contracts which NCB was awarded earlier this year. From millionaire to billionaire, PNM style.
Given that Young’s NCB has a dual role – lender and arranger, it means that NCB enjoys both an arrangement fee AND the interest rates associated with the loan (together with other fees such as legal fees paid to them).
An arranger is essentially a middleman. So why did the government need a middleman when common sense tell you that you should cut out the middle man and just go straight to the financial institution, negotiate directly with them and save money?
It would certainly be more prudent to go to a commercial bank instead of NCB and obtain the full amount of the loan, thereby eliminating the need for a middleman.
This also means not having to pay the arrangement fees and possibly securing a lower interest rate with the bank. But it did not. And the question is WHY.
What was the procurement process that was used by the government to award these contracts? How transparent was it? How come Stuart Young and his brother get so lucky under Rowley? From millionaire to billionaire, PNM style.
In the last two years, the value of the debt financing transactions that the state undertook with NCB Global was $2.5 billion! In fact, this year they were mandated to arrange a bond for $1.5 billion for the state’s expenditure. Why was this ONE small financial firm given this volume of business for government of financing?
NCB Global lacks the capacity to lend these funds to the state – because of this, they also act as an agent for other lenders and arrange for money from other financial institutions to be lent to the state. Essentially, NCB acts as a lender AND a middle-man.
They aren’t just lending money to the government; they are also sourcing funds from other financial institutions to lend to the government – so naturally they would have to be paid an arrangement fee.
They would also have to be paid other fees like legal fees just for arranging the money from other firms to lend to the government. And of course, if they are also lending, then they would benefit from the interest rate that they charge on the loan.
But why would the government go to a middle-man to raise money, especially a small financial firm, when they could just go directly to the commercial banks?
We have a thriving commercial banking sector here in Trinidad and Tobago, some with a local asset base ranging from $25 billion to over $40 billion. NCB’s asset base is approximately $600 million in 2019.
It was $351 million in 2017. Why go to such a small financial firm to borrow money or arrange for money for you to borrow, when it doesn’t even have adequate capacity in terms of its asset base or capital?
Why not go directly to a commercial bank which more than has the capacity to lend the money required by the state? I mean if you wanted to borrow $1.5 billion – would you go to a financial firm with an asset base of only $600 million or to a firm with over $25 billion?
When the PNM came into office in 2015, NCB had an asset base of only $132 million. In 2019 it stood at $600 million. Their profits in 2015 were only $3 million. In 2019 it surged to $20 million – their profits increased by $17 million in only four years. One of the very few companies to flourish during this PNM tenure! From millionaire to billionaire, PNM style.
And now let us turn to Young’s sidekick, Dr. Rowley’s other main 1% man – AG Faris Al-Rawi.
The documents provided by the Cabinet secretariat reveals that Al-Rawi had to excuse himself due to a conflict of interest from no less than 37 cabinet meetings.
17 out of those 37 meetings that Al-Rawi had to disqualify himself from had to do with guess what? Property rentals to the Al-Rawi and Nahous family to the tune of millions of dollars.
Can you imagine that? That Al-Rawi’s family’s business interests were favourably dealt with by the Cabinet of this country on 17 occasions! From millionaire to billionaires, I tell you!
Talk cheap so let me give you some examples from the cabinet document:
a. Office space rented at rented from Chepstow House located at #56 Fredrick Street, Port of Spain to accommodate the Ministry of Community Development Culture and Arts
b. Office space rented at #5 Gray Street St. Clair Port of Spain to accommodate the Fire Service
c. Rental of warehouse space to accommodate the Inland Revenue Department at #50 El Socorro Road, San Juan
d. Rental of office space in a building located in Estate Trace in Barataria to accommodate the Valuation Division of the Ministry of Finance.
e. Rental of office space at a building located at #3 Alexandra Street, St. Clair to accommodate the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development.
f. Rental of office space at #3 Alexandra Street, St. Clair to accommodate the Personnel Department.
And the list goes on and on…I tell you – is best we rename the government the Al-Rawi & Nahous Real Estate Agency.
Together with the Youngs, they practically own this government!!! From millionaire to billionaire, PNM style.
What’s more, the tentacles of Al-Rawi and his family business dealings with the State are not just confined to lucrative multi-million-dollar rental contracts.
In 2018, he recused himself from a contract proposal for the continued engagement of private healthcare institutions for the provision of surgical, radiological and laboratory services for hospital patients.
He was also absent when the Cabinet granted a remission of customs duty and vat on the importation of a CT Scan Machine and medical equipment by Alexandra Imaging Centre Limited. How are you connected to this company, Faris? The public has a right to know! And Dr Rowley must tell us – what favour is the Cabinet granting it?
Tonight, I call upon Al-Rawi to tell us which private healthcare company or nursing home he is connected to that the government hired to provide laboratory services for patients from the public healthcare system.
What is his connection to Alexandra Imaging Centre Limited such that he had to excuse himself from the Cabinet meeting when the government is granting benefits to this company?
Tonight, I ask Dr. Rowley to tell the nation: Why was the Cabinet granting remissions for customs duty and VAT for this company’s business to flourish and prosper when other businessmen are forced to pay their customs duties and VAT?
What is most disturbing, however, is that in 2020, while everyone is scampering around trying to deal with the dreaded covid disease, Al-Rawi and his family was secretly trying to get the cabinet to grant them a major, multi-million-dollar favour.
Can you imagine that the Cabinet has before it a proposal for a change of use for a parcel of land known as Lot 32 situated at #1 Alexandra Street in Port of Spain from residential to commercial?
Now let’s get this straight – massive commercial building already built and rented out to the government at prime commercial rates for commercial use.
Everyone knows that you must get Town and Country planning permission to build before you start construction. Everyone knows that if you do not have the necessary approvals, Town and Country will hit you a Stop Work Notice to “show cause” why you should be allowed to continue building in breach of the law.
Everyone knows that you cannot build a commercial building on a piece of land that is approved for residential use alone.
So how on earth did Faris and his family construct a multi storey building in the heart of Port of Spain on a plot of land that is approved for residential use only?
More importantly, why is Dr. Rowley and his Cabinet trying to fix things now, after the fact for the Al-Rawi clan? From millionaire to billionaire, PNM style.
When the average citizen is hit with a stop work notice from Town and Country or the Regional Corporation, they are forced to stop work.
To start with, the banks will not even give them a mortgage to build unless they have Town and Country planning approval. You think the average citizen could build a commercial building on lands approved for residential use only and when the building is finished, it can pick up the phone and call Dr Rowley and say “Fix Dis fuh meh nah padna”?
So many hundreds of citizens cannot regularize the status of their homes by obtaining Town & Country Planning approval if there were breaches and they are left to suffer. No one takes them on.
But here it is Al Rawi and his family are able to get a proposal before the cabinet to convert residential usage for their land to commercial usage after they finish build the entire structure! A shameless and disgusting abuse of power! From millionaire to billionaire, PNM style.
Tonight, I call upon Dr Rowley to tell the nation to explain how this special note came to be before the cabinet and whether his cabinet has approved it.
Do you know the financial benefit and value of converting lands from residential use to commercial use? The land price immediately and exponentially increases! This is a million-dollar favour with countless zeros at the end! And for whose benefit? Not the poor man but, the Al Rawi clan.
What’s more, there is also a proposal before the cabinet for the grant of a lease for a parcel of reclaimed land at Paria Avenue in Shorelands. And again, Al Rawi had to recuse himself!
Tonight I ask Faris, clear the air and tell us what is your interest in this parcel of reclaimed land at Shorelands?! And what favour is your family and friend seeking from Dr Rowley on the eve of the general election? I call upon Dr Rowley to tell us what is the status of this proposal and whether the cabinet has approved it!! From millionaire to billionaire, PNM style.
And that’s not the end of it. Two other transactions stand out. There was a note for a variation of a cabinet decision pertaining to what was strangely enough described as the grant of a new agricultural/commercial/industrial lease with respect to a parcel of land at the Orange Grove Estate in 2018.
Again, Al Rawi had to excuse himself. Why? What’s the connection, I ask?
And another mystery was Faris’s recusal from the cabinet meeting to deal with the grant of approval for the sale of lands in Las Cuevas by the government through Rincon Development Limited which is a subsidiary of Udecott.
Rowley and his Cabinet granted approval for these lands to be sold on the real estate market and Faris excuses himself. The sale of these lands was supposed to benefit the poor man in Las Cuevas so why is the AG excusing himself?
Is the Al Rawi clan buying up state lands with the help of Rowley? We demand an explanation!
Rowley has used his position as Prime Minister and head of the cabinet to facilitate the business of his friends and financiers. He has used his power to approve major multi-million dollar contracts for the benefit of the Young family and the Al Rawi family. And not a word about it to the public.
But time longer than twine as they say, and tonight, Rowley and and the PNM have been exposed for what they are – a bunch of opportunists who have used their office for the benefit of their friends and families and financiers.
While many are struggling to survive and they singing “Blame Kamla”, Al Rawi and Young and their families are profiting handsomely and living large.
From millionaire to billionaire, PNM style ???