Friday, January 19, 2018

Ministry officials, cop fingered in quarrying racket

TWO Ministry of Energy officials and a police inspector have been allegedly identified in connection with a multi-million dollar illegal quarrying racket in the Melajo Forest, Matura.

Continuing Sunday Express investigations uncovered that the two senior officials are expected to be quizzed by police shortly. 

The police inspector is expected to be transferred to another district until investigations are concluded. 

Sunday Express learned that top officials at the Ministry of National Security obtained information linking the trio to the illegal quarrying racket that was revealed exclusively in this newspaper.  

Police sources told the Sunday Express that the ministry officials need to explain how the illegal quarrying was not discovered before the publication of the June 1, 2014 exclusive story in the Sunday Express.

The Ministry of Energy, accompanied by a police officer, visits quarries in the area twice per month to ensure that owners comply with the rules and regulations outlined in the licence. 

However, police said, a report has never been submitted to the ministry disclosing the destruction caused to the Melajo Forest by the illegal quarrying site. 

Quarry owners in the area, however, the Sunday Express learned, filed numerous complaints at the Energy Ministry about the illegal quarrying site. 

When the Sunday Express contacted president of the Quarry Association of Trinidad and Tobago Ramdeo “Dan” Persad on May 20, seeking comment on the illegal site in Matura, he said only: “Keep me out of that.” 

Police have linked a Sangre Grande businessman (name called) to the illegal quarrying site. 

Approximately 400 acres comprising both State and private lands have been illegally bulldozed and excavated in search of the aggregate (known as half-and-half material). 

The illegal mining operations were being conducted mere metres behind a licenced quarry situated at Rio Grande Trace, Matura. 

However, since the publication of the article the businessman has ceased mining operations and has removed all equipment from the illegal quarrying site. 

The businessman is currently constructing a housing development in east Trinidad. 

The illegal quarrying site the Sunday Express learned is under 24-hour police surveillance. 

When this newspaper contacted the businessman on Wednesday seeking an interview he declined saying: “Continue to write; I am not ready to talk.”

Calls and text messages seeking comment from Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine were not responded to up to yesterday.

OAS visits CMA

A Sunday Express investigation into the illegal mining operations uncovered that tonnes of aggregate material valued in the millions of dollars were being used in the construction of the $7.5 billion Debe to Mon Desir segment of the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Pt Fortin.

The aggregate, purchased at $200 per yard (inclusive of delivery), was dropped off at the construction site from October 2013 to February of this year. 

Caribbean Minerals Agency (CMA) Ltd is the company officially contracted to supply aggregate for the highway. 

The highway is being constructed by Brazilian firm Construtora OAS. 

The Sunday Express learned that officials from Construtora OAS visited CMA on Tuesday and met with co-owner Howard John.  

Leaks from within 

Further investigations revealed that police have also begun taking statements from quarry owners in the area. 

The Sunday Express learned that last Monday, police received information that the businessman had relocated to Tattoo Trace, Valencia. 

However, when police visited the area on Wednesday no mining operations were taking place. 

Police said their intelligence revealed that there was a tip-off. 

However, police obtained footage of an excavator bulldozing trees at Andrews Trace, the illegal quarrying site that was shut down by police in 2012. 

Police are expected to return to the area next week.