CMC – The Integrity Commission has cleared Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley of wrongdoing in the purchase of a townhouse in Tobago, saying that it had ended a probe into the matter.
While the Commission acknowledged that Prime Minister Rowley had omitted to disclose the purchase contrary to the Integrity in Public Life Act, it said that the omission was not deliberate.
It maintained its position that it could not find reasonable grounds to draw the inference that the prime minister made a false statement of the estimated value of the townhouse in his Form A declaration of income, assets and liabilities.
Prime Minister Rowley has always maintained he did nothing wrong when he filed the necessary documents, but the Commission has asked him to amend his declaration to reflect the true state of his affairs.
The Commission said that it had conducted a “meaningful investigation” of the complaint first raised in December 2021 by opposition legislator Saddam Hosein over the purchase of the townhouse.
While it said its first investigation into the matter had found nothing wrong, the Commission maintained its position in responding to a second call by the activist for the main opposition United National Congress (UNC), Ravi Balgobin Maharaj to reopen its investigation.
Maharaj’s attorney, Vishaal Siewsaran in the second complaint, on August 17, took issue with the value Prime Minister Rowley had ascribed to the townhouse in his declaration of income and assets under the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA).
The attorney argued that the Commission’s original 18-month investigation was done in a “piecemeal manner,” and was “skewed, biased, and incomplete.”
In the request to re-open the investigation, Siewsaran said when Prime MInister Rowley and his wife signed the deed for the purchase price of TT$1.2 million (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents), they would have been expected to pay stamp duty on that figure, and the attorney who acted for them would have had to present a valuation report to pay the stamp duty.
But the Commission said it found “no evidence of any alteration from a lower stamp value to a higher stamp value to raise an inference that there was a change in the circumstances which was so significant that Dr Rowley had to be made aware of same.
The Commission said said it also considered obtaining further evidence on the transaction. However, it determined that any communication between Prime Minister Rowley and his attorney would have been privileged.
On August 20, the attorney who registered the deed for the Prime Minister’s Tobago The Commission said based on the evidence obtained during the course of its investigation, there was no indication that a valuation report was submitted to the Inland Revenue Division for the transaction.
“Furthermore, the Commission found no evidence of any alteration from a lower stamp value to a higher stamp value to raise an inference that there was a change in the circumstances which was so significant that Dr Rowley had to be made aware of same.
It also again rejected that its actions reeked of political bias.