Interim political leader of the Independent Liberal Party (ILP), Jack Warner, met yesterday with officials of the Integrity Commission (IC) as the probe gets underway into his allegations that a government minister owns six multi-million dollar palatial homes under questionable circumstances.
Warner confirmed to the Express he was called in to a meeting at the Commission’s Offices at the Unit Trust Corporation (UTC) Financial Centre in Port of Spain yesterday morning. Sources close to the investigation told the Express that Warner, in a no holds barred interview, provided taped information to support his claim against the government minister.
The information, it was learnt , did not only involve the six questionable houses linked to the government minister but also contained graphic information about sexual harassment, bribery and food card abuse.
On July 23, seven days before the Chaguanas West by-election, Warner, during a public meeting at the Marchin Recreation Grounds in Cunupia, showed pictures of “palatial homes” which he said belonged to one Government minister who “could not afford to buy a doubles” before his ministerial post.
Warner did not call any names, but the day after the allegations were made, Minister of the People Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh hastily convened a media conference and along with his mother, denied the allegations, confirming only that he owned one home that was still mortgaged and incomplete.
Following Warner’s allegations, some three weeks later on August 14, the Integrity Commission issued a statement that it was using its own initiative to investigate corruption allegations against a government minister made by the ILP interim leader during the Chaguanas West by-election campaign.
The Commission’s statement said it was investigating Warner’s claim that a government minister had acquired six houses, one of which came from a contractor in exchange for that contractor receiving a $36 million contract.
It added that it was also investigating the allegation that the same minister “received a house from a businessman in exchange for the businessman having some of his properties rented by the minister’s ministry”.
The Commission said it was acting in accordance with Section 33 (a) of the IPLA under which it may, on its own initiative, consider and enquire into any alleged breaches of the act or any allegations of corrupt or dishonest conduct by persons in public life.
The Commission also stated that it intends to inform the public from time to time when it has decided to carry out investigations on its own initiative.
The commissioners are Ken Gordon (chairman), retired justice Sebastian Ventour (deputy chairman), Seunarine Jokhoo, Deonarine Jaggernauth and Dr Shelly-Anne Lalchan.
But even as the Commission had stated its intention to “initiate investigation” into Warner’s first round of allegation, on August 17, while speaking on a platform in Sangre Grande, Warner struck again against the same Minister.
Naming Ramadharsingh this time around, Warner accused him of running a “sex ring” at his Ministry and of issuing State-funded food cards to wealthy friends to “buy meat” for weddings and river limes.
Warner claimed that at the Ministry of the People, “employees are forced to have sex for favours.”
“I have names and places and dates of the persons involved,” he said, adding that when one of the employees complained about the matter, she was fired.
Ramadharsingh denied any involvement in any sex ring or abuse of state-funded food cards.
Sources told the Express that information pertaining to all the allegations made by Warner is now in the hands of the Integrity Commission .
In an immediate response yesterday, Ramadharsingh said that he is prepared to meet with the Commission if and when called to do so.
“I am prepared to meet with them. As I said before I welcome the investigation.”
Ramadharsingh said he is yet to be contacted by the Commission.
“Up to this time they have not contacted me as to any investigation,” he said
Asked if he felt this was strange, since an investigation has been launched, Ramadharsingh said, “well they have said that in law they have the pejorative to do this and I am guided by that.”
He said, “at the end of the day the allegations were made in the public domain and I will clear my name whether it is through the courts, or via the Integrity Commission.”
According to him, “these are baseless allegations and I really welcome the investigations.”
Efforts to contact Mervyn Crichlow, Chief Communications & Public Relations Officer of the Commission via an e-mail and phone calls proved futile yesterday.