We cannot just take a decision on “how it go look”.
So said Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan at a press conference this morning where he defended the Government’s decision to lease the Maltese vessel Jean De La Valette from Virtu Holdings Limited.
Managing director of Virtu, Francis Portelli, has been involved in a huge oil scandal in Malta, with allegations of money laundering and bribery still hanging over his head.
Portelli is currently facing charges of bribery in a case connected to the 2013 Enemalta oil scandal which is considered one of Malta’s most prominent cases.
Esther Farmer, president of the National Infrastructure Development Company Limited (Nidco), said the controversial vessel was the newest of five tenders provided.
The Jean De La Valette is ten years old.
“This is the type of boat we want to be servicing Tobago,” Farmer said.
“This affords everything that can get our sea bridge in the sort of condition we want it in and this is what we may be on the brink of not having.”
Asked about the charges hanging over Portelli’s head, Farmer said: "Nidco has a tender from a company Virtu Ferries. There is nothing at this stage that warrants Nidco not to enter into a contract with Virtu Ferries.
“Nidco deals with the legality of something not the concept of something. There is nothing illegal in the contract the Nidco is about to enter into with Virtu ferries and that is a fact.”
Sinanan agreed with Farmer.
“Let me just endorse what the president said. We cannot just take decisions on how it go look. Right here in this country we have people in front courts for similar allegations, who have been getting hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts from the State from 2010 until now, but there is a process and you were quite correct in saying that everyone is innocent until proven guilty so is it that everybody who is before the court the State’s must not do business with them?” Sinanan said.
Sinanan said the Opposition is “hell-bent” on ensuring that international parties do not want anything to do with this county. He cited Sandals decision to pull out of Tobago as an example of this.
The minister also slammed claims that this was some sort of “secret deal”, saying he has been speaking out on the situation since last year when the request for proposal went out in August.
Sinanan said the T&T Spirit is scheduled to go on drydock soon, so the vessel is needed.
Reporter: Joel Julien