Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ashworth Jack's 4 Million Dollar House Referred for Investigation by the Integrity Commission

Ashworth Jack's House 
The controversial issue of the house built by Ashworth Jack, political leader of the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), has for the second time been put in the lap of the Integrity Commission.

And this time around, the commission has taken notice and has asked its director of investigations, Richard Frederick, to discuss the issue and obtain all information and documents in the matter.

The first request to the commission to probe the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Minority Leader's assets by Tobagonian Moses O Thomas was reported by the Express in November last year.

Thomas had in October 2011 made an official query to the commission about the land on which Jack had built his home and a vehicle purported to be owned by Jack.

Thomas, the field liaison officer for the Chief Secretary of the THA, had asked the Integrity Commission to review Jack's declaration of income, assets and liabilities for the years 2001-2008, saying what he saw were "very inconsistent declarations".

Thomas had also asked the commission to probe ownership of a vehicle (Toyota SUV PCR 5066) which he said was not owned by either Jack or his business AJ Rentals.

The commission at that time had dismissed Thomas's request for an investigation, and the commission's chairman, Ken Gordon, had told the Express that Jack would not be investigated unless and until a request came to the commission as an official query.

Dissatisfied with the commission's failure to probe Jack, Moses subsequently called on Gordon to step down. Gordon did not.

Unlike this first outcome, however, fellow Tobagonian Goslyn Loraine has over the past month raised the issue of the acquisition of the land and construction of Jack's house with the registrar of the Integrity Commission, Martin Farrell.

In a letter dated December 18, 2012, Loraine, a political activist and co-ordinator of the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) in Tobago, raised four concerns to determine whether Jack had acquired his property by "fraudulent or corrupt means".

He also raised allegations of "inducements" being used for political favours. Jack had dismissed speculation in an exclusive Sunday Express story last year that his multimillion-dollar house in Hillsborough, Mt St George, was a political "gift" from Trinidad.

The commission, in its response to Loraine, dated January 3, 2013, invited Lorraine to tell all in a meeting with its director of investigations, Frederick.

The letter, signed by Farrell, stated, "In an effort to adequately respond to your requests, the commission invites you to meet with its director, Investigations, Mr Richard Frederick, at 10 a.m on Thursday, January 10, 2013, at the Office of the Integrity Commission."

According to Farrell, "This meeting is intended to obtain from you all information/documents in your possession which may establish the allegations made."

It also pointed to the Integrity in Public Life Act, Chapter 22:01 and to Section 34 A, which "stipulates that the commission may, on receipt of a complaint, reject same if it is not supported by evidence of a probative value".
While it did not outrightly reject Loraine's complaint, the commission sought to give an explanation of what constituted "evidence" and explained that "broadly defined (evidence) is the means from which an inference may logically be drawn as to the existence of a fact".

The commission said it was "anxious to investigate all allegations of corrupt or fraudulent conduct, however, it can only do so when supplied with information upon which a reasonable inference of such conduct can be founded".

The Express contacted Loraine in Tobago, but he indicated he had not yet met with the commission on the issue.

He explained that he needed more time to provide the information and the request for the meeting came at short notice.

"I have received correspondence from the commission and I am to get back to them on the next possible date for a meeting," he said.

Loraine said he was a bit surprised by the commission's request for him to provide documented evidence since the issue of Jack's house was in the public domain.

He said, too, that the meeting was unlikely to take place before next Monday, January 21, when Tobagonians go to the polls to elect a new executive to lead the THA for the next four years.

Jack is seeking to unseat incumbent People's National Movement (PNM) Chief Secretary Orville London.

The third party in the race is the Tobago Platform of Truth (TPT), whose leader is Hochoy Charles.

Reproduced from Trinidadexpress

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