Government must tell taxpayers about settlement with Vertical Aviation Ltd on the unused Sikorsky S76D helicopter and provide details about sending the “chopper” to Canada next month.
UNC MP Roodal Moonilal made that call at last night’s UNC meeting, citing information on the issue in a June 21 legal note to the US courts.
The PP administration obtained the aircraft in 2014 but it wasn’t used by the PNM administration and it became subject of US court action by helicopter supplier Vertical Aviation Ltd.
After video was seen last week of the covered helicopter at Point Lisas port, Prime Minister Keith Rowley said the helicopter matter had “tied up” his Government causing millions of taxpayers’ dollars to be wasted–- and a statement would be made in Parliament in September.
Yesterday, Moonilal said the helicopter remains warehoused at the port.
He noted former National Security minister Stuart Young’s January statement that settlement on the issue was agreed to in the sum of US$6.5 million and one agreement of the settlement was eventual return of the aircraft, at Government’s cost.
Moonilal cited a June 21, 2021 legal note which he said raises further questions. That involved a letter from Government’s US attorney (Linda Martin) to the judge in the US matter.
Moonilal read the note which stated settlement was reached on the matter of the helicopter and that contemplated it would be transported from T&T to a Canadian facility via vessel and then overland.
It requested the court refrain from dismissing the matter until delivery. Deadline was to have been July 14, but “realistically” it wouldn’t have been completed by then. Government has until August 22 to complete delivery and deadline extension to that date was being requested of the court, the note added.
Moonilal said, “Government must properly inform taxpayers of the provisions of the official settlement and terms of agreement entered into following a court order of June 9, (when the court ordered parties to say when their agreement was done).”
“Citizens must be informed of the transport contractor being used to deliver the helicopter to Canada, plus the cost of freight and other applicable tariffs and charges. And Government must advise whether the Court-ordered revised delivery date of August 22 would be met.”
He claimed failure to meet that deadline “will see the matter returned to the court’s calendar.’’
Querying “secrecy,” Moonilal said Government must explain why revelation of the court orders was made only after he raised queries on the helicopter.
He alleged that full cost to be paid by taxpayers – to Vertical Aviation, lawyers, transport, security deposit for rent could be as much as “$55 million; they can correct us if wrong…if they’d paid the lease for use it would have cost the same $55 million.”
Moonilal called for Government to move on advice received to have the court set aside the $84 million arbitration award to AV Drilling– especially after he claimed Petrotrin’s lawyers were paid $5.5million for work.
He said, “According to June 16 Freedom of Information request to Petrotrin, its response on July 16, 2021, Petrotrin paid its lawyers the following sums….. $5.5m.”
He said after the AVD arbitration, Petrotrin lead counsel senior counsel (Deborah) Peake advised Petrotrin’s Board the arbitration was wrongly decided, that arbitrators “misconducted themselves” and immediate application should be made to the court to set aside the arbitration ruling.
Moonilal said, “Petrotrin was advised there’s good prospect for the court to set aside this award, to save taxpayers paying $1 Billion which it’s been widely reported may be sought by AVD. Petrotrin was advised of time sensitivity and to apply by June 21. That’s passed.”
he added: “After all the legal fees paid (their attorneys) they’re yet to follow the advice of their lawyers to file the application. Why is Petrotrin dragging its feet in challenging this award? Who are the other lawyers advising Petrotrin?”