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TRINIDAD | Angostura execs’ wild spending exposed

Featured TRINIDAD | Angostura execs’ wild spending exposed
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, November 5, 2018 - The Trinidad Guardian newspaper is reporting that damn­ing claims of high-lev­el mis­man­age­ment, wild spend­ing and im­prop­er pro­cure­ment prac­tices which showed a pat­tern of mis­be­hav­iour by top com­pa­ny of­fi­cials, has sparked an in-depth au­dit in­to the op­er­a­tions of the State-owned An­gos­tu­ra Hold­ings Ltd.

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.

 

  • Countries: Trinidad_Tobago

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