Cummings: How is Lutchmedial getting confidential police documents?

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Foster Cummings –

Youth Development and National Service Minister Foster Cummings is asking how confidential documents given to the police at their request by his lawyers made their way into the hands of Opposition Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial.

Responding to a question from Newsday at a media conference at his ministry on Elizabeth Street, St Clair, on Friday, Cummings said,

“As a result of a production order, certain confidential information was provided to the police. Those documents, which were properly marked by the attorneys when given to the police, have found their way into the hands of the opposition senator.

“This senator seems to have access to information that was provided to the police in furtherance of their mandate, as before, she presented an alleged Special Branch report and is now able to wave these documents on a political platform. I have today instructed my attorneys to write to the Commissioner of Police to draw his attention to this matter as one of serious concern for investigation and action.”

Cummings said there was no attempt on his part to get a warrant from the Financial Investigation Bureau set aside.

Speaking on the documents shared by Lutchmedial on her Facebook page last Thursday, which show the deposit of over $1.8 million into Cummings’ Venture Credit Union account in 2020, he said all payments would have been for work contracted while he was CEO, with the payments being made subsequently.

“It is well known throughout the credit union movement that many credit unions provide business loans to the principals or chief executives of small and medium businesses. These transactions usually involve the assignment of the contract proceeds to be paid directly to the lending institution. Companies are not allowed to be members of a credit union, it has to be either an individual or another credit union, so the business packages offered to small and medium businesses by credit unions in this country, is usually conducted by the principals of the business.

“Instead of stating that this was a legitimate business transaction where contract proceeds from various family-owned businesses would have been used to service the business loan for those contracts, they instead chose to mislead the population.

“These legitimate business transactions occurred prior to my appointment as a government minister, and I am no longer involved in the management of these companies. All of the proceeds of contracts are business income and would be reported as business income in the accounts of the various companies at the time, and the relevant taxes paid, that is standard.”

He said between 2019 and 2020, Rivulet Investment Group Ltd was awarded contracts for emergency works at the Couva West Secondary School, and the proceeds from these works were signed to Venture Credit Union as part of a business loan condition.

Cumming’s attorney Farai Hove Masaisai, speaking at the conference, said they had not yet received a response to a previous letter to the police commissioner about the Special Branch Report.

“She indicated that the report was confidential and secret, and we wrote to the Commissioner to find if it is a Special Branch report. We have initiated court proceedings against the senator, but the court is a court of evidence, so we can’t go by what she said, so if it is from Special Branch, the CoP would be the best one to say so.

“A letter will also be sent to Venture Credit Union to find out how the senator may have come into possession of these documents.”

Cummings said his family has been doing business with the credit union for 15 years and he had utmost confidence in them, as there had never been leaks of confidential information before.

In response to Opposition statements that Cummings used his influence as a PNM minster to gain HDC contracts, he sought permission from his family and directors of the company to share two letters of award from HDC to Rivulet Investment Group Ltd.

“One was for the comprehensive external refurbishment of One Building Barataria Phase 2, dated April 27, 2015, for $1,748,100, plus Value Added Tax. The other was for comprehensive external refurbishment works at Harding Place Cocorite Package 2, Buildings 5, 6, and 7 dated July 17, 2014, for $2,866,585.71.

“In July 2014, the UNC was in government. What influence are they suggesting was used then? Who was the government in April of 2015? What influence could possibly have been used then by this PNM official?”

Cummings also again addressed the matter of three land parcels listed in the alleged Special Branch report.

“I own the property at 73 Balisier Avenue, purchased on March 18, 2015, from a private citizen, deed no. 2015-01095104.

“I take note several members of the Opposition have asked whether the HDC has recently changed its policy through influence from PNM officeholders, as recently as the last Parliamentary sitting. However, at the date of this purchase, March 18, 2015, who was the government in power, and who was the Housing Minister? This property was purchased by me when the UNC was the government of TT.”

Dr Roodal Moonilal was Minister of Housing from 2010-2015.

“The property located at Southern Main Road, Pt Lisas, was purchased by my wife. That land was purchased from the HDC in 2007, and it is on this land we constructed our family home.

“Additionally, my wife also owns a property at the corner of 492 Balisier Avenue and Southern Main Road, Couva, purchased by a private citizen, in November 2021, through a legitimate purchase agreement with all the necessary approvals obtained.”

Cummings said he asked the public and the media to reject the “lies” of the UNC and to take careful note of the actions of Lutchmedial.

“The former employee of the Financial Intelligence Unit, who, unlike the average citizen, clearly has access to high-level secret and confidential police files on the activities of private citizens, and the banking information of people and businesses alike.

“Such information is being used by the Opposition to damage the integrity and political character of their political opponents. I ask you to take careful note, today it is me and my family, tomorrow it could be you.”