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Warner: Who are Chida, Shankar?

THA chief slams 'secret deal' allegations

By Anna Ramdass anna.ramdass@trinidadexpress.com

Who are Chida and Shankar?

National Security Minister Jack Warner has said he can find no substantial information on these two men who benefited from a $2.5 million investment from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), under Chief Secretary Orville London.

Speaking at a Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP) meeting on Thursday night at Cyd Grey Stadium car park, Roxborough, Tobago, Warner accused the London-led THA of engaging in "secret deals" that lack proper accountability and transparency.

Warner said, according to the Auditor General's report for 2003, 2004 and 2005, the THA invested $2.5 million in a company called Decipher.

The THA, he said, did not produce the share certificate to prove they bought the shares and gave a loan guarantee of $750,000 to the company and did not record it in the annual statements—not just for one year, but for all three consecutive years.

"There is no documentation to say why this investment was made or what the THA or Tobagonians were supposed to benefit. They just give the people $3.25 million (sic) just so and the money gone, and to this day, nothing to show for it," said Warner.

He said according to documents obtained from the Registrar General's Office, Decipher was registered on September 11, 2001.

Warner said the registered office is #3 Lewis Street, San Fernando, and the directors are Asif Chida, a management consultant, and Vinayaka Shankar, an electronic engineer.

This address, said Warner, is the same address of the lawyer who filed the company's papers.

"I am the Minister of National Security, you know...wait, wait!" said Warner as the audience shouted.

"So these two fellas, Chida and Shankar, living in and operating a company in the same room that their lawyer is doing business? To this day, we have no proof that $3.25 million was even given to them, and if so, for what purpose. Do you believe we cannot even find a telephone number for this company? Do you believe that up to now, we can find no information about Chida and Shankar?"

He said the THA's business had the support of both London and Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley.

"Rowley, who in Trinidad, put on a kurta and go to some Indian function and go Debe and eat doubles, and in Trinidad, he is an Indian lover; in Tobago, he's an Indian hater," said Warner.

He further alleged that London invested $5 million in a company called WW Automotive Ltd and that money was written off.

"I ask you tonight, who and what is WW Automotive, and ask London, what is this investment about?"

Contacted by telephone yesterday, London told the Express that all transactions conducted by the THA were above board, and he lambasted Warner for his attacks.

"There is nothing that is done at the Assembly that is considered a secret; anybody who knows about bureaucracy will know that no politician can utilise public funds in that way without going through the proper procedure," said London.

He said all these claims by Warner were attempts to shift attention away from "the embarrassment" TOP leader Ashworth Jack faces at this time.

"The evidence as to the TOP leader's misconduct is clear and does not have to be fabricated."

London said it was unfortunate that a minister "could stoop to this level of desperation and low politics that we are not accustomed to in Tobago. This is alarming".

He added he has no problem if questions are asked with respect to persons in public life, adding: "I am open to scrutiny.

"I totally condemn that kind of despicable behaviour."

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