Fri | Sep 25, 2020

Cenitech CEO rips OCG probes after seven set free

Published:Wednesday | November 27, 2019 | 12:00 AMCorey Robinson/Staff Reporter

Administrators and employees of Cenitech Engineering Solutions celebrated in vindication recently after the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate’s Court threw out a fraud case brought against them by the Office of the Contractor General (OCG).

But even in their triumph, Cenitech’s board members expressed concerns over how probes were conducted by the OCG, and the impact the case has had on the company during the five-year-long case.

Seven of Cenitech’s employees were arrested after the OCG launched a probe into allegations that it provided fraudulent documents to the National Contracts Commission (NCC) – an independent Commission of Parliament – in 2014.

On October 31, the matter was thrown out, but according to the Cenitech heads, the damage has already been done.

“The OCG, in the revocation of Cenitech’s licence, never followed the recommendations of the attorney general and it wasn’t in keeping with natural justice,” said Cenitech CEO George Knight in an exclusive interview with The Gleaner recently.

“What happened to us was not just. We made an application and you arrested us on all different stuff. You revoked our licence without giving us an opportunity to clarify any discrepancies, even though that was the advice of the attorney general,” Knight said.

“They never did that. They just came and revoked,” said Knight, alleging that Cenitech was dubbed a shell company involved in a multimillion-dollar racket.

The effect of such accusations is irreparable, said Knight, however, lauding some loyal clients who stood by Cenitech through the ordeal.

When contacted, former Contractor General Dirk Harrison, who brought the charges against Cenitech, declined to comment.

Knight and Cenitech’s director, Clava Mantock Jr, were arrested on two counts of conspiracy to defraud contrary to common law, and two counts of obtaining chattel by false pretence contrary to Section 35 of the Larceny Act, among other charges.

In the ruling by Judge Jacqueline Wilcott, it was outlined that: “It was alleged that they obtained a certificate of registration from the NCC by false pretences and conspired with themselves and persons known and unknown to obtain said certificate ... .”

“I make note here that the submission made about the use of Section 29 (10 of the Contractor General’s Act was disingenuous, especially in light of the vociferous arguments at the start of these proceedings,” Wilcott said. “I also note here as part of the Crown’s written submission that the Salomon principle has not been involved and the evidence before me had not pierced the corporate veil.”

Knight insisted that there was no basis for the licence revocation, drawing nods of approval from board members who were among those arrested.

According to the board members who were arrested, theirs and their families’ lives have been severely impacted, and their reputation damaged by the allegations. Some were still wary of travelling overseas, fearful that the case might pop up as immigration red flags.

“When we started the journey, I honestly felt like there was no justice. I spent 10 days in Half-Way Tree lock-up trying to figure out why the hell am I here. I perused my entire life to see what happened, and I just couldn’t understand,” said Knight, who was whisked away from his Cherry Gardens home in Upper St Andrew by armed cops with flashing lights.

“The most significant thing for me is that a man can be taken off the street and thrown in jail without enough evidence of anything. That concerns me,” he said, noting that the ordeal troubled his mother until her passing in 2017.

“Going forward, our case, perhaps sometime in our life, will be used to vindicate somebody else who would have been abused and mistreated, and I take heart from that,” he said. “The damage has been done and there is no amount of money you can pay to compensate you for damage done to your reputation.”

The OCG is currently pursuing a judicial review of the ruling regarding the revocation of Cenitech’s licences.