Procurement of Superfast Galicia on trial

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

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MARITIME attorney Nyree Alfonso has begun her testimony in the State’s lawsuit against her over the controversial procurement of the Superfast Galicia.

She spent close to four hours testifying on Thursday and will return on Friday to complete her evidence at the virtual trial before Justice Joan Charles.

In 2018, the Port Authority and the Attorney General filed a claim for breach of fiduciary duty against Alfonso, Intercontinental Shipping Ltd (ICSL), and its representative, John Powell.

The lawsuit alleges between December 2013 and July 2014, the authority retained Alfonso to help procure a new vessel for the inter-island ferry service.

It claims Alfonso breached her fiduciary duty as an attorney for the authority, as she was associated with the company and assisted in its successful tender in exchange for financial gain.

Through the lawsuit, the State is seeking to recoup the profits which it claims Alfonso, Powell, and the company made on the three-year lease, which totalled $143 million.

In her testimony on Thursday, Alfonso said she mistakenly received an invitation to tender from the authority, and against her better judgment at the time, wrote a letter that purported to appoint ICSL as her agent.

She said all she did was transfer the tender documents to the company, which was interested in putting in a bid.

“All I intended to do was assign the tender documents to ICSL.”

She said the wording of the letter was “unfortunate” and the error was mainly due to her being consumed with events at First Citizens Bank, of which she was non-executive chairman at the time.

“It was not what I had intended. It was just for him to use the tender documents that were sent to me in error…

“It was an error, a very unfortunate error on my part. I was faced with an error myself because the tender came to me and I was attempting to bring redress to that. It was not my tender,” she insisted, under cross-examination by the authority’s lead counsel, Dr Claude Denbow, SC.

Alfonso at no time did ICSL or Powell act as her “agent” in the authority’s tendering process to find a suitable cargo vessel for the inter-island route during the time the Warrior Spirit was to go into dry dock.

Alfonso said the port retained her for six months from December 30, 2013- June 30, 2014, to help identify/locate a party/vessel for the route during the dry-docking period of the Warrior Spirit, and not “bring it here or operate it.”

The lawsuit against Alfonso, Powell and ICSL was filed shortly after the Superfast Galicia contract was cancelled in April 2017. The decision led to daily delays in the ferry service before the government eventually bought the Galleons Passage to service the seabridge.

Alfonso is represented by a team of attorneys led by Senior Counsel Sophia Chote.