The Integrity Commission acquits the Prime Minister of violations in purchasing an independent house News
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – The Integrity Commission has cleared Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley of any wrongdoing in the purchase of a townhouse in Tobago, saying it has concluded its investigation into the matter.
While the committee acknowledged that Prime Minister Rowley had neglected to disclose the purchase in contravention of the Integrity in Public Life Act, it said this omission was not intentional.
It maintained its position that it could not find reasonable grounds to draw a conclusion that the Prime Minister had made a false statement of the assessed value of the townhouse on his Form A Declaration of Income, Assets and Liabilities.
Prime Minister Rowley has always maintained that he did nothing wrong when he submitted the necessary documents, but the Commission has asked him to amend his declaration to reflect the true state of his affairs.
The committee said it conducted a “purposeful investigation” into the complaint filed for the first time by opposition MP Saddam Hussein in December 2021 regarding the purchase of the house.
While it said its first investigation into the matter found no wrongdoing, the commission maintained its position in response to a second call from the main opposition United National Congress Party activist, Ravi Balgobin Maharaj, to reopen its investigations.
Maharaj’s lawyer, Vishal Seeusaran, in the second complaint, on August 17, objected to the value attributed by PM Rowley to the townhouse in his declaration of income and assets under the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA).
The lawyer said the commission’s original 18-month investigation was conducted in a “piecemeal manner” and was “skewed, biased and incomplete”.
In the request to reopen the investigation, Ciosaran said that when Prime Minister Rowley and his wife signed the purchase price deed of TT$1.2 million (TT$ = 0.16 US cent), they were expected to pay stamp duty on that number. The lawyer representing them had to submit a valuation report to pay the stamp duty.
“The Board of Internal Revenue (BIR) clearly became skeptical of this deal and therefore commissioned the appraisal department to conduct an independent appraisal,” the lawyer said, noting that he had valued the house at $1.68 million.
But the committee said it had found “no evidence of any change from a lower stamp value to a higher stamp value to reach the conclusion that there had been a change in circumstances that was so significant that Dr Rowley had to be informed of it”.
“In addition, the committee reiterates that it has no evidence to suggest that Dr Rowley was aware of the valuation of the unit of the house in question for stamp duty purposes.”
“The Committee is obliged to point out that what the lawyer responsible for the transaction should have done and what was actually done are two different matters.
In this regard, the Committee must make its decision based on the evidence.
“It is certain that Dr Rowley may have been informed of the stamp duty he was required to pay in the amount of TT$33,500. However, based on the evidence obtained during the Committee’s investigation, there was no indication that a valuation report had been submitted to the Revenue Internal Affairs regarding the deal.
The Commission said it was also considering obtaining more evidence about the deal. However, I decided that any contact between Prime Minister Rowley and his lawyers would be special.
She also once again rejected that her actions smacked of political bias.
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