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Signing of the agreement with Damen Shipping at the Ministry of National Security in May 2015. Photo courtesy Damen Shipping website

The Office of the Prime Minister is not revealing any more details on an alleged investigations into the Opposition United National Congress (UNC) by Dutch authorities.

On Sunday Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said in September 2015, Dutch fiscal intelligence initiated a criminal investigation into possible bribery committed by the Damen Shipyard Group. According to Rowley the authorities received signals that Damen was involved in bribing of foreign officials in relation to vessel building contracts.

He said by January 2017 the offices of Damen were raided by the Dutch authorities.

With regards to T&T , Rowley said that the UNC, just before demitting office paid a total commission to a “foreign agent”, a local partner and a St Lucian affiliate some $177 million. It amounted to 13 per cent of the $1.38 billion contract.

On Sunday, while speaking about the matter, Rowley said the UNC’s national security minister was also named in the matter.

At the time of the signing, the national security minister was Brigadier Carl Alfonso.

“I was the Minister at the time it was received. I did not have anything to do with the procurement,” Afonso told Guardian Media yesterday.

He said he was not sure when the vessels were negotiated and purchased or who was the national security minister at the time.

Prime Minister Rowley, his communications point person Abby Braithwaithe, Communications Minister Donna Cox, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and National Security Minister Stuart Young did not respond to calls about the status of the investigation.

There were also no responses from Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar and UNC PRO Anita Haynes,

According to information on the Damen Shipping website, May 2015 was the culmination of a four year acquisition programme by the UNC to purchase the 12 vessels.

“Trinidad and Tobago has ordered a complete package of vessels with the aim of enhancing the country’s maritime security and of establishing the foundations of a Maritime Security Wall; thereby creating and sustaining an effective presence in all tiers of Trinidad and Tobago’s maritime domain.

Four Damen Stan Patrol 5009 Coastal Patrol Vessels

• 51 metres long, 9 metres wide

• Speeds in excess of 28 knots

• Range exceeds 2500 nautical miles

• Equipped with an advanced surveillance system

• Deploys an on-board 11 metres interceptor plus a short-range 7.5 metres Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB)

• Uses a unique Sea-Axe design to dramatically enhance sea-keeping in rough waters

• These vessels will patrol coastal waters and are also capable of operating in Trinidad and Tobago’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

• 54 metres long, 10 metres wide

• Speeds in excess of 20 knots

• Range exceeds 3000 nautical miles

• These vessels can be used for a variety of roles: support of interceptor operations, disaster relief, search and rescue, as well as limited coastal patrol.

• 11 metres long, 2 metres wide

• Speeds in excess of 53 knots

• Interceptors are capable of being embarked on and deployed from the SPas and FCS acting as a force multiplier.

Since 1927, Damen has built a significant number of high quality vessels for civil and military purposes. Such vessels are in service with the Coast Guards of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados and the Netherlands among others.

Mr Van Oord, said, “Damen is a company that prides itself on the quality and performance of the ships we build. We are delighted to welcome the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to our family and will strive to deliver this package on time and within budget. These are the hallmarks of Damen that have helped us become market leader in the Caribbean.”