Lok Jack, Enill defend sale
Former chairman of British West Indies Airways (BWIA) Arthur Lok Jack said yesterday there was no negligence in the £5 million sale of the London Heathrow slots in 2007.
Speaking to the Express by phone, Lok Jack said Attorney General Anand Ramlogan had sent him some questions, via letter, over the sale of the slots, which he answered.
"I have talked about the sale for years... I told them exactly what it is... the board wasn't negligent in any way," said Lok Jack.
"It is a matter of judgment... that's ridiculous to say there was negligence, there were only two people who were interested in the slots at that time—Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. We gave it to the one who was going to continue to fly to Trinidad," said Lok Jack.
He said Virgin Atlantic had offered half a million more, but did not want to maintain the London-to-Trinidad route, so it was decided to conduct the transaction with British Airways instead, which had agreed to maintain the routes.
Lok Jack said all the information with respect to this sale was readily available.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had appointed a committee to investigate the sale of the Heathrow slots.
The forensic management audit report, which was compiled by economist Jwala Rambarran, now Central Bank Governor, found the BWIA board was negligent in its fiduciary duties with respect to the sale.
The report recommended Parliament convene a special session at which, at a minimum, the former government ministers and directors should be called upon to account for the role which they played in the slots sale.
Lok Jack said he has no problem in providing answers on the sale, which he has done previously.
Former minister in the Ministry of Finance Conrad Enill said the decision to sell the slots was based on expert advice.
Enill told the Express the matter was one looked at by a team, the former BWIA board, as well as executives from within the energy and business sectors. He said ministers were not responsible for negotiations and that was left for the purview of the then board.
"Ministers don't go out and negotiate commercial arrangements, they set policy and they direct activities on the basis of reports," said Enill.
Questioned on the findings of the forensic management audit report, which stated that former People's National Movement ministers and former directors of BWIA should be called to account for the sale of the Heathrow slots which were not beneficial to this country, Enill responded: "I think those are issues that the (former) board has to respond to. I don't think it was simply a case of selling the slots, I think there was some situation with negotiations with British Airways and a package."
Enill said he was certain former directors could answer any questions posed to them on the transaction.
"In so far as negligence, I don't understand that term because nobody is going to take any action that is not supported by any information."
Asked if he maintains that the £5 million slot sale was the best course of action back then, Enill said: "I maintain that the decision that was made was based on the advice that we got."