A serious allegation involving a very senior Government minister was made and withdrawn in a matter of minutes in the House of Representatives yesterday evening by Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal.
Explaining he had been absent from the December 1 debate on a bill to amend several acts related to anti-money laundering, Moonilal said he went to Florida to “follow the money” about the multi-million dollar “fake oil” scandal at State-owned Petrotrin.
“If you want a concrete example of dealing with money laundering today, I ask the AG to tell us, in his winding up, What have you done so far to find the $80 million in the fake oil scandal, where not one but two reports have confirmed that the oil is fake but the money is real?“
Moonilal then said he had information about “where this money is now moving from contractor A to contractor B and I can confirm that a cheque, which cheque number I have, which bank I have, has moved to the spouse of a high-ranking Government official.”
Moonilal then read from an email allegedly to a very senior Government minister from someone connected to owner of A&V Oil and Gas Limited, Haniff Baksh.
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi promptly jumped to his feet to object that Moonilal was, “Raising an improper motive and he’s further seeking to embellish that by saying I have invited him to do so.”
House Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George then asked Moonilal to withdraw his statement about being invited to read the email.
Speaking with Newsday after the House had been adjourned to a date to be fixed, Moonilal said the person who had the banking information was “very scared to come to Trinidad to meet me”, hence his Florida trip.
“The person was kind enough to give me several pieces of information. I raised one today and that is a banking piece of information. All I did was to ask the AG to look into it – I cannot confirm whether it’s true or not, I’m not a detective or investigator – because we were dealing with money laundering. I was horrified to know that the (very senior Government minister’s) name appeared on a document. Even now, I still am hoping that, that document is not authentic.”
During an interview with Newsday, the AG said, “Let me make this abundantly clear, (Moonilal) effectively said nothing because he withdrew everything from the record. What I am waiting on is for the Member for Oropouche East to go into the public domain and say whatever he wants to say. It’s only then that I will hear anything that he has to say.”