Thu | Apr 22, 2021

Petrojam fallout

Charge looms for Bahado-Singh ally

Published:Tuesday | March 9, 2021 | 12:23 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter
Perceval Bahado-Singh

Another former top executive at Jamaica’s state-owned oil refinery Petrojam is expected to be slapped with fraud-related charges early next week, senior law enforcement sources have disclosed. The former executive voluntarily returned to the island...

Another former top executive at Jamaica’s state-owned oil refinery Petrojam is expected to be slapped with fraud-related charges early next week, senior law enforcement sources have disclosed.

The former executive voluntarily returned to the island days ago and is to be grilled by investigators from the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) this week, The Gleaner has learnt.

The disclosure came on Monday, hours after former Petrojam chairman, Dr Perceval Bahado-Singh, was arrested and charged with 12 counts of obtaining money by means of false pretence by MOCA detectives.

The charges are based on allegations that between December 2016 and May 2018, Bahado-Singh “fraudulently” claimed and was paid reimbursements totalling US$73,620 from the state-owned refinery for “overseas trips he did not attend”.

The other former Petrojam executive, one law enforcement source said, is to face charges tied to the reimbursements paid to Bahado-Singh and based on a ruling by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP).

Both MOCA and the ODPP declined to comment on the pending charges.

Bert Samuels, the attorney representing Bahado-Singh, noted that his client, who resides in the United States, voluntarily returned to the island to face the charges and appeared confident he would be exonerated.

“Late last year, we saw it swirling in the press that they may [seek to] extradite him and I contacted the authorities, including MOCA, and said, ‘You don’t need to extradite this man, this man is ready to come,’” said Samuels, adding that the former Petrojam chairman arrived in the island 16 days ago.

An investigation conducted by the Integrity Commission, citing data provided by Petrojam, pointed to a number overseas trips for which Bahado-Singh was reimbursed. The report noted that in some cases, Petrojam indicated that the trips were not official business and that it was unable to locate records to confirm that meetings were held on the dates specified.

In some instances, the report indicated that the payments were made “based on approval of [then] general manager Floyd Grindley”.

But Samuels, noting that Bahado-Singh has already repaid the US$73,620 to the state-owned refinery, suggested that the charges were politically motivated.

“He bought these tickets on his own and was refunded, and for one reason or the other he didn’t attend these meetings, which is part of our defence. Once he discovered the monies were to be paid back, he sent them back,” the attorney explained during a Nationwide radio interview on Monday.

“The law is that you must have a criminal intent, you must have intended to permanently deprive PCJ of the funds and that is certainly not so on our defence … and at no time did he have that intention.”

Asserting that the case against his client was “not just an ordinary case”, the criminal defence attorney suggested that it was based on a demand for answers by the parliamentary Opposition to governance issues uncovered at the state-owned refinery.

“Once politics gets involved, once you have one side going against the other, then there are collateral damage and the scapegoats come to light,” he said.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com