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Opposition Senator Wade Mark addresses the Senate yesterday.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert must say if he’s aware of Belgrave Properties, if he bought a property for $1.7 million when it was worth $12m – and if he denied T&T of stamp duty revenue, said UNC Senator Wade Mark.

Mark who made the call in the Senate yesterday lobbied for Police Commissioner Gary Griffith to be involved in the alleged “land fraud transaction” where Mark claimed T&T was denied millions in stamp duty revenue.

Mark spoke about the matter during yesterday’s Senate debate on a bill to tighten conveyancing processes for property sales.

He took issue with the fact that a registry will be created on trust deeds, but the information will be confidential, save for access by officials of Inland Revenue, the police and Financial Intelligence Unit. Mark asked why the government would want the registry not to be exposed to the public.

Mark said, “We object to any decisions to deny the public, information I call on the Attorney General to back back – withdraw this clause. What does Government have to hide?”

“I agree with the AG’s (earlier) statements that there are people in society who used trust deeds to deny the public their just due regarding stamp duties. He, as an attorney should be familiar with this practice,“ he said.

Mark said he has evidence of the practice involving “high-ranking people” who used the trust deed aspect to deny T&T stamp duty revenue. He said has a name concerning this.

Mark said three lots of lands at an unknown number at Picton Street, Port-of-Spain were transferred from a company called Cannon to Belgrave Properties. He claimed Cannon bought the lots from Janitorial Services for $3 million. He claimed Cannon created Belgrave Properties and sold the land 12 years later to that entity.

”They sold it to themselves… the land which they bought for $3m, they sold it to Belgrave Properties for $1.7m – and denied the public, stamp duty revenue,” he said.

“The property was valued at over $12m,” he added claiming it was bought for $1.7m by “another high ranking person in this Government.”

“You can check the Companies Registry and see the new owner of Belgrave Properties… it has over 16 apartments (on the location) at Picton Street,” he said.

“This is a matter for the police, the Attorney General should investigate it, the AG’s aware of the people involved in this transaction,” he added.

Mark asked why Government was seeking to “cover-up” elements using trust deeds to deny T&T stamp revenue earnings. He said the Finance Minister must “tell us if he’s aware of Belgrave Properties” and say if he bought a property for $1.7m when it was worth $12m and “denied T&T endless stamp duties.”

Point highway next year – Rohan

The San Fernando to Point Fortin highway which was to have been completed in January 2020 – and was delayed – will now be ready by the first quarter of 2021, says Works Minister Rohan Sinanan.

Replying to Opposition queries in the Senate, Sinanan said the delay was caused by the COVID-19 lockdown. With the resumption of work and considering the weather and with no further delays, he projected completion by 2021 first quarter. Sinanan had no information that the delay would increase project costs.

Energy Minister Franklin Khan, replying to other queries, said the National Gas Company (NGC) and Methanex Trinidad Ltd are still in discussions on a long-term contract. He said there are differences in the gas price.

“Market conditions have changed. That’s affecting negotiation pace. The price (of gas) was recently $219 per metric tonne, last year it was $350. These are sensitive talks, complex commercial discussions are on to reach the ‘sweet spot’. All will be revealed soon – Government’s committed to finding a way.”

Khan also listed nine contractors who worked on the Mahaica pavilion construction which will cost a total of $46.2m.

Work began in August 2018.

So far $17m was spent. Khan said it will be completed in October.