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Hart still out of police reach

...witness statements, documents needed from US authorities
Published: 
Sunday, March 22, 2015

Former Udecott executive chairman Calder Hart remains out of the reach of T&T police, even as the near five-year-old criminal investigation into his alleged financial misdeeds remains active. Investigators said the probe was being constrained by delays in the handing over of documents and witness statements from US authorities. Police sources said Hart was in Florida, but there was nothing the police could do at this point to extradite him to Trinidad, especially since investigators were still waiting for witness statements to review before moving forward.

They indicated that the Central Authority, which is under the Attorney General’s office, is working with investigators on the matter. 

When contacted about the status of the investigation, Attorney General Garvin Nicholas said he could not give any update as the matter was being handled by the police. He was unable to say if investigators had sought his office’s assistance by way of government-to-government agreements to retrieve documents and witness statements. He said he would have to check with the personnel at his office when he returned to T&T next week. Nicholas is leaving T&T today to attend a law conference in the UK and is expected back on Wednesday. 

Yesterday, acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams could shed no light on the progress of the investigation into alleged corruption by Hart. He said Deputy Commissioner of Police Harold Phillip was heading the Hart investigation and he had not asked him for an update. Williams said he would update the nation on all outstanding investigations soon. “I am in the process of doing a list of all outstanding investigations, including the Calder Hart investigation, and I will update the nation through the media,” he said. 

On Friday, Hart’s name came up in the Commission of Enquiry into the failed Las Alturas project as a necessary witness in the hearing. Udecott’s lawyer Faydia Mohammed said attempts were being made to contact the former executive chairman to have him appear in the CoE. Hart was the executive chairman at the time the multi-million dollar housing project at Lady Young Road, Morvant, was under construction.

Moonilal, when contacted about the delay in the investigation, said via text message, “It is a pity that Hart cannot present himself at the CoE to explain himself in the debacle of Las Alturas.” In 2010, Hart suddenly resigned from Udecott after allegations surfaced that he had direct family ties with two directors of Malaysian firm Sunway Construction Caribbean Ltd, which had worked on Udecott’s $820 million Ministry of Legal Affairs Towers. 

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard had, in 2010, ordered a police probe into allegations of wrongdoing by the former executive chairman. When contacted yesterday, DCP Phillip declined to provide details on the investigation. He said he could not speak about any moves to extradite Hart from the US. “We have not reached that stage yet. You have to have evidence before you draft those documents, you have to complete it, and you have to get advice from the DPP and so on. We are still working on it, we are still investigating it,” Phillip said.

Sunday Guardian understands that US authorities have been interviewing witnesses connected to the Hart investigation and local investigators are awaiting those documents to make an assessment of how to proceed with the case. “We cannot talk extradition without evidence. It is when you interview all the witnesses then you could make an assessment, so we are still in evidence gathering, so we are still interviewing witnesses. It is active,” Phillip said. 

Apart from the criminal investigation into corruption allegations, Hart is also facing this country’s first civil fraud case which was filed by former attorney general Anand Ramlogan. The $100 million lawsuit is in connection with the incomplete Brian Lara Tarouba Stadium and Hart’s close connection to the contractor CH Construction. 

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