FORMER Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT) executive chairman Calder Hart says he has no intention of skipping out on any proceedings against him in Trinidad and Tobago.
Hart spoke exclusively to the Express in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA last Friday.
"As soon as I know when I am required to be back I will be back," Hart said.
So the authorities have been talking to you, yes or no? the Express asked.
"No, my lawyers have been talking. The matter is obviously before the courts so we're dealing with it and I respect the judge's wishes and when I have to be back I will be back," Hart replied.
Along 411 North New River Drive in East Fort Lauderdale is where you will find Hart's residence.
The complex he lives in is called the Las Olas Grand and is regarded as a location where millionaires settle to enjoy retirement.
The view is a meandering riverfront sprinkled with high-end yachts and steamboats.
And nestled comfortably on the seventh floor in unit 701 is Hart.
The man who spent years in Trinidad and Tobago in charge of the State's most powerful companies and who eventually became the centre of the Uff Commission of Enquiry into UDeCOTT and its projects says life now is good in the Sunshine State of Florida.
"Obviously it's long distance but I have a child to educate."
It's been three years and two weeks since Hart made a quick and quiet exit from Trinidad and Tobago.
Reports last year indicated he had disappeared but Hart responded in an e-mail to the Express afterward, saying he was living at the same Florida address.
Hart, an economist who graduated from St Francis Xavier University in Canada, continues to work as an independent global management consultant.
His website wwwcalderhart.com describes him as a cancer survivor who is also one of the "foremost authorities on infrastructure development, finance and mortgage in the Caribbean".
In his former position at UDeCOTT, the site says, he spearheaded the development of Trinidad and Tobago's Vision 2020 programme and is credited with the "successful design and completion of the country's magnificent infrastructure to include the Port of Spain Waterfront Authority, the Hyatt Hotel complex, the world famous National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) and over three dozen additional key government development projects".
His Florida address was how the Express tracked him down to the marble floor, ornate lobby at the Las Olas Grand complex.
The security guard at the front desk telephoned Hart and within minutes, he was downstairs.
He has never given a face-to-face interview to local media since his departure from Trinidad, and it seemed he wasn't ready to start now.
"I am not going to say anything right now. I came downstairs out of courtesy. I suspected it was the press. The fact is, I will not give any interview up here. When I go back I will give interviews," he said.
His quick exit from Trinidad in March 2010 aboard a Caribbean Airlines flight with his family occurred with advance knowledge of his strongest defender—then prime minister Patrick Manning.
It was the peak of a series of allegations about the way he steered UDeCOTT—the country's most powerful special purpose company under the former PNM government.
The final report of the UFF Commission of Enquiry was then just coming to light.
In it were allegations of misspending of billions of dollars in UDeCOTT projects across the country.
One of the sore points was $885 million awarded to a Malaysian firm with links to Hart's wife, Sherrine.
The UFF report called for a criminal investigation.
The whirlwind of controversy that ushered him out of the country and the fact that he has been gone for three years have left people wondering if he would ever return to account for how UDeCOTT spent taxpayers' money.
Until then, Hart is kicking back and enjoying the sights and sounds of Fort Lauderdale.
In the upscale area of Broward County along Las Olas Boulevard dominated by trendy restaurants, luxury cars and yachts just a stone's throw away from Hart's high-rise condominium you can find him at the Timpano Italian restaurant often, according to employees who said he enjoys a good glass of wine and fine cuisine.
Employees at the Timpano told the Express that almost on a weekly basis, celebrities like Hollywood actor Samuel L Jackson and retired basketball star Dennis Rodman visit the restaurant.
Hart's history in T&T
Canada-born John Calder Hart was recruited in 1986 to set up the Home Mortgage Bank.
Hart served on the board of the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT) since its inception in 1994, became its chairman in 2002 and appointed executive chairman in 2006.
Hart was also chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance Company Ltd (TTMF), the National Insurance Board (NIB) and the National Insurance Property Development Company Ltd (NIPDEC).
• November 2005 — Calls by the Joint Consultative Council (JCC) for his removal as UDeCOTT chairman are made following a series of forensic audits on the agency.
• November 18, 2005 — Hart categorically denies allegations that he or his wife has, or ever had any interest in Malaysia-based company CH Development or its parent company Sunway Caribbean Ltd.
• May 12, 2006 — Hart announces that government will spend $630 million on National Academy for Performing Arts (NAPA) Centres at Port of Spain and San Fernando.
• April 18, 2007 — Hart lashes out at critics of UDeCOTT saying attempts are being made to mislead the people of Trinidad and Tobago into thinking that the Government's construction and development programme is a waste of taxpayers' money.
• May 11, 2007 — Hart says there can be no comparison between the $558 million Brian Lara Stadium and the $1.6 billion Piarco International Airport terminal project,
• May 12, 2007 — Hart says his team did not anticipate the construction of the Brian Lara Stadium would end up costing taxpayers more than $500 million. He said the cost of construction materials and the relocation of the site for the project pushed its price tag above even Udecott's highest projections.
• May 18, 2007 — UDeCOTT announces a profit of $19.6 million for the year 2006.
• May 20, 2007 — Hart says if Opposition Senator Wade Mark has evidence of any wrongdoing by UDeCOTT he should hand it over to the authorities. He says no such evidence exists.
• May 25, 2007 — Hart says total financing for the Waterfront Project in Port of Spain is within budget at US$375 million (TT$2.34 billion). He says any allegation of a cost overrun are "mischievous, utterly ridiculous and a complete misunderstanding of the principles of project financing".
• April 23, 2008 — Diego Martin West MP Dr Keith Rowley is dismissed from the Cabinet by then prime minister Patrick Manning. Rowley says the disagreement came over the role of UDeCOTT and the institution's apparent access to public funds without proper oversight.
• April 28, 2008 — The Integrity Commission launches an investigation into statements made by Rowley that Hart approached him to meet with Hafeez Karamath, a failed bidder for the award of the contract for the construction of the $100 million Customs Building, while he was Minister of Planning.
• May 7, 2008 — Several interest groups from within the business sector, construction industry and the labour movement calls on Government to launch an independent forensic investigation into the operations of UDeCOTT.
• May 23, 2008 — UDeCOTT, in response to former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, defends Hart saying neither Hart, his wife, members of the UDeCOTT Board and its management staff have ever had any beneficial, financial and or legal interest whatsoever in CH Development Ltd, Sunway Construction Caribbean Ltd and or Sunway Construction SDN BHD.
• May 23, 2008 — Then prime minister Patrick Manning announces in Parliament the establishment of a Commission of Enquiry into the construction sector, which would include UDeCOTT.
• September 1, 2008 — UDeCOTT announces an after-tax profit of $24.86 million for its financial half-year ended June 30, 2008.
• September 12, 2008 — Opposition chief whip calls on then prime minister Patrick Manning to resign "because he has been protecting UDeCOTT chairman Calder Hart even though there is a cloud of corruption around him". Maharaj says Manning is not telling the truth when he told the Parliament he did not know of a single serious substantial allegation of corruption as it related to UDeCOTT.
• October 6, 2008 — Opposition Senator Wade Mark calls on Hart to account for $30.9 million in seating for the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, which he claims has gone missing.
• 12 January 2009 — Commission of Enquiry into UDeCOTT starts. Dr Keith Rowley first witness to be called.
• April 8, 2009 — Then prime minister Patrick Manning endorses the performance and capability of UDeCOTT and singles out Hart at the official launch of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Project.
• March 4, 2010 — Congress of the People (COP) produces documents, marriage and birth certificates of Sherrine Lee Hart, wife of Calder Hart, her sister and one of the directors of the firm CH Development, confirming that Calder Hart, had a family connection to CH Development, the company which UDeCOTT awarded a $367 million contract to build the Legal Affairs Ministry tower.
• March 6, 2010 — Hart resigns from UDeCOTT with immediate effect and takes a flight out to Ft Lauderdale, Florida.
• October 6, 2011 — DPP Roger Gaspard says ongoing investigations could lead to Hart being charged for lying under oath at the Commission of Enquiry.
• May 1, 2012 — Attorney General Anand Ramlogan initiates a $65 million lawsuit against Hart in relation to the still incomplete Brian Lara Cricket Academy at Tarouba. Hart is accused of failing to ensure the renewal of advance payment bonds or, alternatively, recovery of $65,680,978.88 representing the balance of the advance payments made to contractor Hafeez Karamath Ltd by UDeCOTT.