The Guardian report says "the company, which has an asset base of over $3 billion, is one of the top performing subsidiaries of the CL Financial empire acquired by Government after CLF was unable to pay its debt from the 2009 bailout of the company. Its shares were also used by the Government to support the National Investment Fund in raising $4 billion to off-set the national budget deficit."
"The NIF bond is supported by some of the strongest CLF companies, with a collective market value of approximately $7.9 billion, including shares of Republic Financial Holdings Limited, One Caribbean Media Limited, West Indian Tobacco Company Limited, Angostura and Trinidad Generation Unlimited. The Government said the initial offer was over-subscribed and plans on second venture next year."
According to the Guardian since news of the Angostura investigation broke, investors in the NIF have become anxious about the outcome of the probe, which has resulted in the sudden resignation of one Angostura director, Kirby Anthony Hosang, last week. Angostura confirmed Hosang’s departure, effective October 31, in newspaper advertisements.
Copies of the bombshell complaint, filed by an anonymous whistleblower, have been made available to Guardian Media exclusively.
Accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which is being assisted by law firm Fitzwilliam Stone Furness-Smith and Morgan, is to meet with the company’s Chief Executive Officer Genevieve Jodhan to give her an opportunity to respond to troubling allegations over the award of multi-million dollar security contracts to MH Tactical, a company with close ties to a serving police officer, Sgt Mark Hernandez, who has been described as “an asset to the State and National Security.”
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has defended Hernandez, 42, a highly-trained operative who is assigned to an elite unit—the Special Operations Response Team—saying a former commissioner of police had authorised the Special Reserve Police officer to be a consultant at a St Augustine-based company owned by Hernandez’s wife.
However, Hernandez describes himself as the executive chairman and owner of MH Tactical Response Group on his LinkedIn profile and is the face of the company on its Facebook page.
Hernandez is one of the officers who played a key role in rescuing kidnap victim Natalie Pollonais from her abductors in El Socorro in September and has led a hand-picked team of police and soldiers in other major anti-crime operations, according to National Security sources.
Jodhan, who has opted to proceed on 20 days vacation leave effective October 29, has maintained that her authorisation of the contracts, valued at $2.2 million, to MH Tactical and two subsidiaries—New Order Security Services (NOSS) and Corporate Asset Management (CAP) were above board. Another contract to Building Spaces Ltd is also under review, according to company officials.
The Guardian report says Jodhan intends to defend her name and will instead point fingers at top company officials as having an agenda to remove her from office.
She had initially been sent on administrative leave after she returned from Harvard University on study leave, but that decision was retracted after she agreed to go on vacation.
An investigation into the allegation by former judge of the Caribbean Court of Justice Rolston Nelson did not result in any disciplinary action.
The whistleblower complaint states NOSS, which is made up of serving police officers and soldiers, has provided training to senior employees on anti-kidnapping techniques, defensive security measures for field managers and internal employees at a average cost of $3,000 per employee. The company is also responsible for securing the company’s assets, including two holiday homes on Gasparee Island, two condominiums at Tobago Plantations, Solimar liquor shops and its Laventille facility.
The former Angostura security manager was replaced by a senior police officer, Supt Radcliff Boxhill, who has now been employed as a consultant in that role, company insiders said.
The whistleblower claimed Hernandez was a frequent visitor to the CEO’s office and claimed NOSS is set to take over another lucrative security contract currently held by Allied Security.
“There is no tenders committee and contracts are handed out on an ad-hoc and personal basis. Money is being spent recklessly and without regard to costs. Top executives manage the company by threats and intimidation,” the complaint stated.
The worker claimed that even the union representing the workers, the Seamen Waterfront Workers’ Trade Union, was not active enough, noting that a recent shutdown of operations in May never made it to the media.
The complaint also referred to a top-heavy management level at an exorbitant cost and abuse of company assets in Gasparee Island and in Tobago.
“Now that the Government is considering offering shares of Angostura to the public (NIF), please sir, do something about this runaway and free spending management, “ the whistleblower pleaded.
For the year ended December 31, 2017, the Angostura Group recorded revenue of $575.2 million versus $620.5 million in 2016, a decrease of $45.3 million (7.3%).
The revenue in 2017 was due to the strategic decision to downsize the loss-making export bulk rum business and focus on brand building. Bulk rum sales represented 6% of the group’s revenue in 2017 compared to 18% in 2016, a reduction of $60.9 million.
The rum brands and signature Angostura aromatic bitters businesses performed favourably with revenue growth of 6%, to $537.7 million, and increased operating profit of $22 million, or 9.8%, in 2017.
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