Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has given instructions for Petrotin to release documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act, that became the subject of a ruling by the Privy Council this week.
Dr Rowley addressed Thursday's post-Cabinet media conference, telling reporters that he has instructed the Minister of Energy, Franklin Khan, to in-turn instruct Petrotrin to release the documents.
On Monday, the Privy Council gave a ruling allowing United National Congress (UNC) activist Ravi Balgobin Maharaj to file judicial review proceedings seeking disclosure of documents related to Petrotrin’s failed Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) project.
The documents were two witness statements used by Senior Counsel Vincent Nelson to advise that proceedings against former Petrotrin chairman Malcolm Jones in the World GTL matter, be discontinued.
Dr Rowley said that while the Freedom of Information matter was between Petrotrin and Maharaj, the government has been accused by the Opposition of attempting to suppress information.
He said there are cases when the minister could give instructions to the board of Petrotrin and that the cabinet felt this was one case that required it.
He has also instructed that the documents be made public so that members of the public could decide on the facts of the matter.
According to the Ministry of Energy, in 2005 World GTL and Petrotrin agreed on a joint venture for the Gas-To-Liquids plant. By January 2006 both companies entered a Shareholders Agreement, giving WGTL 51 percent equity and retaining 49 percent for Petrotrin. One year later, the budget and requisite funding was completed and was pegged at US $165 million, funded by a loan of US125 million from Credit Suisse, US $30 million in preference shares from local investors and $US 10 million in equity from Petrotrin.
In summarizing the failed mega-project, the Ministry of Energy said that the credit agreement with the Swiss bank stipulated that the plant should be producing by July 2009, enough to make repayments on the loan. By this time, the project had already cost twice the budget that it was allowed.
In 2009 when the plant was expected to be completed enough to produce, it was way behind the delivery deadline and the cost mushroomed from the US$165 million to more than US$ 399 million. WGTL was unable to fund its portion of the repayments and Petrotrin bought out the entire Credit Suisse loan.
The project was placed in receivership that same year.
By 2010, when the Government changed hands, Petrotrin stopped all funding to complete the project and by 2012, NiQuan Energy emerged as the company interested in purchasing the idle and incomplete GTL plant.
NiQuan was able to purchase the US$399 million project for just US$35 million which included an initial payment of US$10 million and preference shares valued at US$ 25 million to be paid in two tranches.
- by Sampson Nanton