The current Canadian High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, Gerard Latulippe, who has been “moving heaven and earth” to get the T&T Government to retain SNC-Lavalin as the contractor for the $1 billion Penal hospital, was a former solicitor general of Canada who had to resign because of “allegations of conflict of interest and improper practices”.
So stated People’s National Movement Diego Martin North East MP Colm Imbert in the House of Representatives yesterday.
He was speaking on his private motion calling on the Government to terminate its relationship with the Canadian company, described by the World Bank as the most corrupt in the world.
Imbert said SNC-Lavalin had been banned in Malaysia, Malta, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Angola, Austria, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Egypt, Costa Rica, India, Dominican Republic, Russia, Nigeria, Tunisia, Korea, Mongolia, Panama, Peru, Brazil, Puerto Rico, South Africa and Uruguay.
“The world!” his colleagues chorused.
“Except Trinidad and Tobago,” Imbert piped.
Imbert said what he found disturbing was the fact that notwithstanding all the information about the alleged corrupt activities of this company, pressure was being placed on the Government, the Minister of Housing (Roodal Moonilal) and “even me”.
“I had the unfortunate pleasure, after it was announced that I had this motion, to have a number of requests made to me to meet with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and SNC-Lavalin and so on. I not joking! Requests were made, this week. I did not meet with them. I wasn’t born yesterday,” he stated.
Imbert said he wanted to warn the Housing Minister that he was not dealing with pushovers.
“The persons who are pushing for this company are very experienced.”
He said he wanted to read into the Hansard record information about the CV of the present Canadian High Commissioner in Trinidad and Tobago.
“The present Canadian High Commissioner, who came here this year, replacing Karen McDonald, this gentleman is a very, very experienced man. He has been a politician in Canada. He has been all over the world in various postings and involved in all sorts of agencies in Canada,” he said.
Imbert said he wanted to read something from the Montreal Gazette, dated July 3. 1987.
“The office of former solicitor general Gerard Latulippe broke Government rules last year by not reporting a contract worth about Can$73,000, awarded to a Montreal consulting firm owned by friends of Latulippe, lawyers linked to his former law firm,” Imbert quoted the article as saying.
Imbert said, according to the article, in the weeks before Latulippe quit, the Gazette investigated his department and confirmed Latulippe awarded a contract to the Montreal law firm, which in turn farmed out part of the contract to Latulippe’s girlfriend, Diane Fortier, a Montreal lawyer.
Fortier worked for Latulippe’s former law firm until she was fired last week.
Latulippe awarded three contracts, worth about a total of Can$83,000.
Two of the contracts were awarded directly by the minister (Latulippe), while the third was awarded after Latulippe told his aides to invite the law firm to submit a bid. Only one was recorded in spending commitments.
“Before entering politics, Latulippe signed a severance contract (with the law firm)... under which he was to receive a percentage of fees paid by his former clients in return for helping the firm retain the clients,” said Imbert.
Latulippe resigned as solicitor general in 1987.
“When I read this man’s (Latulippe) history and I realised that he had a controversial history, I understood why I was being sent all these documents telling me how wonderful SNC-Lavalin is,” Imbert said.
However, Imbert stressed that Government had to go beyond the termination of its relationship with SNC-Lavalin and extricate itself from the framework agreement between Trinidad and Tobago and Canada.
He said the agreement locked the T&T Government into dealing with the Canadian Commercial Corporation, which recommended SNC-Lavalin.
Noting that SNC-Lavalin was accused of paying $1 billion in bribes to former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadaffi and of trying to smuggle Gadaffi out of Libya to Mexico, he said the company obviously believed this was a banana republic and therefore it could do business here.