'MATTER SETTLED': Attorney General Anand Ramlogan gesticulates during yesterday's post-Cabinet media conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair. Looking on, from right, are National Security Minister Jack Warner and Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh. –Photo: CURTIS CHASE

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AG insists: T&T won OPV dispute

By Asha Javeed asha.javeed@trinidadexpress.com

The Trinidad and Tobago Government does not have to pay British Aerospace Engineering (BAE) Systems one red cent.

This was reiterated yesterday by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan as he sought to dispel ambiguity following international news reports which suggested otherwise.

Ramlogan insisted that the Government had settled a two-year long arbitration with BAE in this country's favour to the sum of $1.382 billion.

The AG was commenting at yesterday's post-Cabinet media conference, at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair, on a report in the Scotland-based Evening Times which stated that BAE had emerged victorious in the arbitration and that T&T had to pay 130 million pound sterling.

The T&T government and BAE had gone into arbitration after the People's Partnership Government cancelled an order for three offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) in September 2010, which the Government had argued were overdue and not done to correct specifications.

BAE had initiated arbitration proceedings hoping to recover $611.032 million from T&T as it had taken a 100 million pound charge on its books.

In turn, T&T had issued a counter-claim of $1,654 million for the boats, which were valued at 155 million pounds.

"Clyde Shipyard (which is owned by BAE and is where the boats were built) bosses have won a £130 million compensation battle with high-ranking government officials in Trinidad and Tobago. The deal was thrashed out after the Caribbean republic reneged on an agreement to buy three offshore patrol vessels to be used in a crackdown on gun-runners and drug smugglers," the Evening Times story stated.

"It held a private hearing over several days in London in May and last month Cabinet members in the Republic were known to have approved a payment to BAE of £130 million to end the row. Shipyard bosses refused to disclose the sum involved but last night issued a brief statement to confirm both sides had reached an agreement. It means BAE officials have almost doubled their money," the report added.

Ramlogan said the Evening Times story was erroneous, false and misleading and contained elements of an incorrect story published in the T&T Sunday Guardian.

He argued that he had never taken a note to Cabinet seeking $1.3 billion to pay BAE to settle the dispute as the Guardian had reported.

"Not one red cent was paid to BAE," he stated.

The AG pointed out that the Government of T&T had negotiated with BAE in ''good faith'' and doubted whether the international defence company would supply misinformation.

He observed that no official from BAE has spoken on the matter and that he was not engaging in a public relations battle with BAE.

Questioned on how the British press had picked up the story before the Government made a statement on its victory, Ramlogan explained that the deal was signed in London on November 13, which was a public holiday (Divali) in T&T.

He said that there was a four-hour time difference and BAE, which is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange, had issued a brief statement early Wednesday that a settlement had been reached "at an amount consistent with provisions held".

After the statement was issued on Wednesday, BAE shares declined by 0.71 per cent in the London market but picked up again yesterday.

British High Commissioner Arthur Snell also dismissed the Evening Times story as "incorrect" as the sum was analogous to the sum earned by the T&T Government.

He also dismissed any suggestion that T&T would have to pay BAE any money. He told the Express that the arbitration was a mutually-agreed settlement.

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