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Ex-WASA boss, Kall Co exec on bribe charges

Published: 
Saturday, July 14, 2018
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Wendell Diaz, former head of Procurement and Logistics at WASA

A former Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) executive and a construction company director have been each released on $250,000 bail after appearing in court on corruption charges yesterday.

Wendell Diaz, the former head of Procurement and Logistics at WASA and Michael Arjune, a director of Kall Co Ltd, were granted bail when they appeared before Magistrate Kerri Honore-Narine in the Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court.

Diaz was charged with corruptly accepting a $30,000 bribe from Arjune as a reward for influencing the award of WASA contracts to the company. Arjune was charged for paying the bribe in December 2013. The charges did not state if any contracts were induced by the alleged bribe.

The duo was not called upon to plead to the charges, which were laid indictably.

Police prosecutor, acting Inspector Rajesh Lal, objected to bail for Diaz, who lives at Red Hill, D’Abadie, and for Arjune, who lives at Boissiere Village, Maraval.

Honore-Narine disagreed.

Kall Co is one of several contracting companies that were named in a recent novel state civil cartel claim over $200 million in contractors awarded under the People’s Partnership government in the run-up to the 2015 general elections. The cartel claim centres around 10 contracts for rehabilitation of roads in Caroni, which were granted to five contractors by the Estate Management and Business Development Company Ltd (EMBD).

The other contractors, who are also challenging the claim, are Namalco, Fides, TN Ramnauth and Company Ltd (TN Ramnauth) and Mootilal Ramhit and Sons Contracting Ltd (Ramhit).

That claim, touted by the People’s National Movement (PNM) Government as its first corruption case, is currently before High Court Judge James Aboud and is yet to go to trial.

Kall Co has also won several millions of dollars in lawsuits over uncontested work it performed for other State agencies over the past few years.

Even after it was implicated in the cartel claim, the Government still awarded it a $400 million contract for the first leg of the controversial Churchill Roosevelt Highway extension to Manzanilla, which is currently under construction.

Diaz was represented by Ulric Skerritt, while Jagdeo Singh and Criston J Williams represented Arjune. They were charged by PC Patrice Loney-Phillip of the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau.

Both men were ordered to reappear in court on August 10.

When contacted on the matter yesterday, WASA chairman Romney Thomas said he had heard that charges have been laid against Diaz.

“What I can tell you is that Mr Wendell Diaz was the former acting director of corporate services prior to his termination in March of 2017 for gross misconduct,” Thomas said, adding the AG’s office continues to work on claims of a civil nature involving corruption.

Pressed further, Thomas refused to comment saying Diaz’s matter was now before the court.

Calls to Kall Co’s office yesterday went unanswered.

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