The controversial 'gift' by Dutch oil company Trafigura Beheer to the People's National Party (PNP) could jeopardise its contract with the state-owned Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica (PCJ), says Dr. Raymond Wright, senior consultant and former group managing director at the PCJ.
At least one government minister, Colin Campbell, who held the information and development portfolios in addition to his post as general secretary of the PNP, has already lost his job in the controversy.
"Because of the situation I'm not sure where PCJ wants to go with Trafigura," said Dr. Raymond Wright, the company's former CEO, who is now a senior consultant to the corporation. "... We are in the limbo in terms of the trading situation."
Trafigura has for the past five years had the contract to trade the crude Jamaica buys on concessionary terms from Nigeria, but which is not of a grade that can be refined by the Petrojam oil refinery here and, in any event, is sourced too far away to be shipped to the island given Jamaica's supply agreement with Venezuela.
But the Trafigura agreement exploded into controversy last week, when the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party revealed that the Dutch commodities trader had in August paid the equivalent of J$31 million into a local bank account on which several ruling party officials, including former information minister and PNP general secretary, Colin Campbell were signatories.
The payment by Trafigura was only weeks before the signing on September 20 of its latest contract with the PCJ, a company that falls within the portfolio of commerce and energy minister, Phillip Paulwell, whose named has been mentioned in connection with the negotiation of the 'gift'.
In the previous agreement, covering October 2005 and April of this year, Trafigura lifted 1,948, 271 barrels of Nigerian crude in Jamaica's behalf, for which the government netted US$170,474 at fixed payment of 12.5 US cents per barrel.
Prior to the fixed rate with the agreement with Trafigura, in which the Dutch trader is responsible for all the take-up expenses, PCJ had a profit-sharing agreement with Vitol SA, which sometimes saw the Jamaican firm losing on deals.
The PCJ's Wright has insisted that the Trafigura deal was better than what previously existed and was good for Jamaica. "They have been very good at lifting and having good relations with NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Company) and have paid PCJ promptly," he said.