MSJ tells Government: Address white-collar crime

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

David Abdulah. File photo/Roger Jacob

MOVEMENT for Social Justice (MSJ) leader David Abdulah says crime is out of control so much so police have resorted to seeking devine intervention to fight crime.

He said the authorities much first deal with white-collar crimes if they are to get a grip on violent crimes such as human trafficking, drug trafficking, and the guns and ammunition trade.

Abdulah was speaking at the MSJ’s virtual media conference on Sunday.

He called for “strong action” to deal with white-collar crimes like corruption and money laundering.

He also identified several measures the party believes should be addressed in the 2022/2023 budget presentation on September 26, saying the country was not sure if the Government would allocate the money wisely.

“The authorities must immediately implement public procurement laws, deal with the absence of scanners at the nation’s ports and implement party finance law to tackle white-collar crimes.”

He also said a financial intelligence unit must be established as a stand-alone financial intelligence agency with full investigative power.

Abdulah said there was a lack of accountability and transparency by the Government. He referred to a media report which said the Energy and Energy Industries Ministry had given Niquan Energy Ltd in Pointe-a-Pierre approvals to restart operations at the gas-to-liquids plant in the upcoming months.

Abdulah accused the company of failing to meet the fenceline community “which was traumatised by the explosion” at the plant in April 2021.

“NiQuan community relations have been extremely poor, to put it politely. There has been no discussion with the community about the restart.

He said the former energy minister, the late Franklin Khan, made a definitive statement that the committee established to investigate the explosion was to make the findings public.

“A year and a half have passed and not a single word of that committee’s report has been made public. Yet, we are hearing that the ministry has given Niquan the green light to restart the plant,” Abdulah said.

The company reported that on April 7, 2021, the plant’s hydrocracker system failed during an attempted start-up, resulting in an explosion.

In June, the acting prime minister Colm Imbert in response to questions from the Opposition in the House of Representatives, gave an update on the plant.

Imbert said on June 3, the ministry approved “the introduction of fuel gas only for the reformer burners for conducting refractory dry out.”

A statement from NiQuan Energy in November said the company was “working assiduously with its contractors” to restart the plant in the first quarter of 2022.

The statement added that once all safety measures had been implemented and accepted by NiQuan’s engineer, the plant would have been back up to full commercial production.