PM: $100m in foreign country’s hands thanks to shady Coast Guard boat deal

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley greets supporters at a PNM meeting at the Croisee Promenade, San Juan on January 18. – Photo by Roger Jacob

THE Prime Minister has said $100 million of taxpayers’ money is in the hands of a foreign government as a result of a contract between the UNC-led People’s Partnership (PP) coalition government and Dutch shipbuilder Damen for the Coast Guard to acquire 12 vessels.

Dr Rowley made this statement at a PNM public meeting in San Juan on January 18.

In May 2015, the PP administration ordered 12 vessels from the Dutch firm for $1.35 billion.

This acquisition arose after the PP failed to maintain Coast Guard patrol vessels acquired by its PNM predecessor from Australian shipbuilder Austal.

The Damen vessels were not maintained under the PP.

In November 2019, the Dutch government launched an investigation into the contract.

Rowley referred to comments earlier in the meeting by National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds about the Government’s signing a new contract with Damen to maintain the 12 vessels the PP had bought.

He said what Hinds “has not told you is that around the contract that existed for those vessels to be purchased in the first place was a $220 million finder’s fee.

“When a foreign nation saw this largesse coming to some people, halfway through the payment, the foreign, European country intervened and stopped it and held on to $100 million of the money.”

He did not identify the country by name.

Rowley said this happened because the foreign nation was concerned about where the finder’s fee was going.

Against this background, he continued, the population must be wary of the UNC telling them that it can solve crime.

In contrast, Rowley reminded PNM supporters about the two Cape Class patrol boats which the Government acquired from Austal in May 2021.

He said he went on a trip on one of the vessels from Teteron in Chaguaramas to Tobago, and was pleased to have witnessed the vessel and its crew in action.

“We have two of those vessels because the PNM’s position is different.”