Minister of Energy Stuart Young is denying there is a conflict of interest between himself and NiQuan, as alluded to by UNC senator Anil Roberts on Sunday.
"I have never worked for NiQuan," Young told Newsday.
"I once represented Malcolm Jones who was a former chairman of Petrotrin when the UNC government commenced action against Mr Jones and others. The fact is that is was under the UNC government, between 2010 to 2015, that the World GTL plant was contracted to be given to NiQuan.
Responding to questions sent by Newsday through WhatsApp,Young called the “concerns” of a conflict of interest a “red herring” and advised that people "not take (Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal) Moonilal and Roberts seriously."
"There is absolutely no conflict of interest between NiQuan and myself. Accordingly, the issue, or rather red herring, of a conflict raised by the desperate Opposition, who revel in attempting to mislead the population, is rejected outright."
At a media briefing at the Office of the Opposition Leader in Port of Spain, Roberts questioned if there was a possible conflict of interest concerning Young, the newly-appointed Minister of Energy, and energy company NiQuan.
Roberts raised the question among several regarding NiQuan – the explosion on April 7, and the connection between the company and Young.
Roberts alleged the minister worked with NiQuan in the past as the company’s legal representative.
“Stuart Young was the attorney on record for Malcolm Jones. And when the government withdrew its case he still received his fees. He was intricately involved in the world GTL (gas to liquid) projects, he had knowledge and information from Jones about the assets the processes and so on.
“Now that Young is Minister of Energy and NiQuan Energy is providing the people of TT with a big headache, is the Minister of Energy conflicted on this issue?”
Roberts said NiQuan could also be a major risk to life and limb, especially in the fenceline community of Point-a-Pierre.
“There were previous days where there were fires, and videos came out and people were fired because the videos got out. Then there was the flare-ups of the wax that people were recording and you could see the flare from 20 miles away, and there was the explosion.
“There is a risk that the technology is not proven, that there is some level of incompetence and it’s a danger to life and limb.”
The UNC senator also said the company “has not made one dollar,” adding that their debt profile and lack of payments to employees were indicative that the company was in trouble financially.
“TT is equity shareholders because the PNM took USD$10 million and $25 million in shares. What kind of shares are they? Are they ownership shares or are they just money shares? If the company goes down, we are owners – we are going to lose.”
Moonilal called for an update on the sale of the Petrotrin refinery.
“To this date we have no update on the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery,” Moonilal said.
“When the deal with Patriotic collapsed, we were told they were going back on the international market. They did not go back to the original businesses, and today we fear that the refinery would be scrap iron in a few days’ time.”
On April 7, there was an explosion at the NiQuan gas-to-liquid plant sending shockwaves through the community of Pointe-a-Pierre and environs.
An investigation into the explosion was immediately ordered by late minister of energy Franklyn Khan.
So far, the ministry determined that the explosion may have been as a result of a component failure at the plant. No one was hurt.