The people who dominated our front pages

By By Camille Bethel

In 2013, the Sunday Express relentlessly pursued and broke a number of exclusive stories that placed the spotlight on Members of Parliament and top State officials. 

These stories raised thought-provoking questions and at times forced the relevant authorities into action, either in an attempt to right an alleged wrong or to investigate and understand the issue raised by the newspaper.

In looking back on the stories, which featured prominently on the front pages of the Sunday Express over the past year, there were those whose names and photographs dominated the front pages of the Sunday Express more than others.

Former minister of national security minister and Member of Parliament for Chaguanas West, Jack Warner, was one. Warner was the subject of an exclusive investigative series which ran on the front pages of the Sunday Express for much of April, and which delved into allegations of corruption within the Warner empire. 

That investigative series made way for other investigative pieces in May and June, but Warner returned to the front pages of the Sunday Express July as further investigations brought to the fore new information during the Chaguanas West by-election. 

By September, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan was featured on the cover of the Sunday Express with threats of legal action against the Express Newspapers after his family was visited by a senior Express investigative journalist Anika Gumbs who was working on a story involving Ramlogan. 

 Ramlogan threatened to take the Express Newspapers to court to prevent publication of the story and to sue for defamation should the paper publish “falsities”.

In October, the Sunday Express in a series of investigative reports on National Quarries examined the operations at the State company.

 Documents acquired showed that National Quarries (NQ) paid $2 million for two pieces of equipment, even though the cash-strapped State company thought it was getting only one.

However, the company did not benefit from the purchase as one piece of equipment—an excavator—went to NQ, while the other—a crawler dozer went to the worksite of a private company.

And despite paying $2 million, about $831,402 of that sum remained unaccounted for in the transaction.

Subsequent to publication of the stories, action was taken by Minister of Finance Larry Howai and Minister of Energy Kevin Ramnarine and a top official at NQ was removed.

As the Sunday Express continued with its fearless reporting the month of November, Attorney General Ramlogan was once again the subject of front page headlines. This time over conflicting Customs documents relating to tax exemptions he received for luxury Range Rover vehicles purchased for him, one of which was eventually sold to a private citizen but without the proper vehicle transfers being carried out.

The story was hotly pursued by the Sunday Express for weeks where:  

“Records at the Licensing Authority in Port of Spain show that the Range Rover TDV Vogue was registered on August 4, 2010 while the Range Rover Autobiography was registered on January 10, 2013. 

Official Customs and Excise (C&E) documents show the Range Rover Autobiography, valued at £76,922.64 (TT$815,373.20) arrived in Trinidad and Tobago on July 31, 2012. 

The vehicles were imported from London by Navarro’s Brokerage Ltd in Port of Spain and under the Salaries Review Commission (SRC), all Members of Parliament are exempt from paying taxes on motor vehicles over a two-year period. 

However, while Ramlogan is entitled to these facilities, a Sunday Express investigation found documents bearing contradictory information in relation to the multi-million-dollar vehicles. 

The matter relating to the Range Rover TDV Vogue and Range Rover Autobiography is before the Integrity Commission.

And although Ramlogan’s Range Rover issues held the front page of the Sunday Express for consecutive weeks, by the end of November it would be the Speaker of the House Wade Mark who grabbed the front page of the Sunday Express.

This story came after programme director at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business (GSB) Brian Ghent resigned over the awarding of the Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) degree to Mark.

Ghent’s resignation followed a chain of e-mails between top officials at the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business questioning special concessions granted to Mark toward the completion of the EMBA.

The resignation letter which was obtained by the Sunday Express was dated November 13 and addressed to the acting academic director, Dr Ron Sookram.

Ghent stated: “In keeping with several discussions we had, I believe it is important that I record here my deepest concern with the circumstances surrounding the award of the EMBA degree to Mr Wade Mark, as well as the subsequent responses to me since I raised the matter.”

Sunday Express sources said Ghent’s resignation came on the heels of e-mails between top officials at the Lok Jack GSB which claimed that Mark did not do the course work component which consisted of a mid-term exam which accounted for ten per cent of the marks, a group project “25 per cent” and class participation of  five per cent. 

Mark who was also contacted on the issue maintained he never used his office to gain any special concession from The University of the West Indies.

Mark has maintained that he completed his course work component.

GSB and UWI officials have also stated that Mark fulfilled the requirement of the programme to graduate.

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