PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) – The coalition People’s Partnership government has filed a suit against former Miss Universe, Wendy Fitzwilliam alleging that she failed to properly advise the directors of a state-owned company on whether to enter into a TT$30 million (One TT dollar = US$0.16 cents) investment in 2005 with the China-based Bamboo Network Ltd (BNL).
The Sunday Express reported that Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, who has already initiated legal action against the board of directors of the Evolving Technologies and Enterprise Development Company Ltd (e TecK) has now joined Fitzwilliam, an attorney by profession who served as vice president/general manager Business Development at the state state-owned entity.
Also named as a defendant in the amended lawsuit is the company’s former manager, Business Development John Soo Ping Chow, who is accused of failing in his accounting duties related to BNL, and failing to properly advise the company’s board on the prudence of the investment, given the alleged absence of audited accounts for BNL.
The amended lawsuit was filed January 17. So far the Kamla Persad Bissessar led coalition government has filed lawsuits against six former e TecK officials, including its chairman Professor Kenneth Julien and directors Ulric McNicol, Professor Brian Copeland, Dr Rene Monteil, Eugene Tiah and Sonia Noel.
Fitzwilliams told the newspaper that the lawsuit has been “before the courts now and has been for quite some time.
“I think the matter has been thrown out at the Appeal Court level. I’m not sure. I’m just getting on top of it. So it’s before the courts. I will have lots to say when this is done, but not now. It’s before the courts,” she added.
In June 2011, the government filed the lawsuit against the board of directors following a 2005 investment in BNL to develop e TecK’s information technology business venture as part of the former People’s National Movement (PNM) administration’s diversification of the downstream industries.
The claim alleged that the six board members failed to ascertain whether the investment with BNL was prudent and in the interest of the company or the country and that BNL failed to perform any of its obligations under the agreement arrived at by the board led by Julien.
It is also being alleged that BNL failed to return the invested five million US dollars despite several requests by e TecK.
The Sunday Express said that Ramlogan in 2011 during a news conference said a forensic team which included investigator Canadian Bob Lindquist had uncovered what he alleged was a lack of “due diligence” by the board members, which led to a massive financial haemorrhage.
Ramlogan said the most “startling discovery” was the lack of proper legal or financial due diligence into the nature of the investment that the board agreed to.
“That money disappeared into a black hole,” Ramlogan alleged, adding that when an e TecK team visited Hong Kong, they discovered several companies bearing that same name and as a result the Ministry of Finance “in the strongest possible terms” advised e TecK not to invest in BNL.
“Notwithstanding this advice from the Ministry of Finance, e TecK proceeded apace,” he said.
Last December, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Julien and other members who comprised the board he led, in a procedural appeal filed in the lawsuit brought against them by Ramlogan.
As a consequence, the State was ordered to pay TT$55,000 in legal costs to Julien and the former directors who in March last year had filed an application in the courts seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed on the basis that it was filed out of time.