PM instructs that Petrotrin release documents in Malcolm Jones matter

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.

The his­to­ry

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