AT last week’s sitting of Parliament, the question of the investigation of Minister for Economic Development, Guy Joseph, for allegations of fraud, came up.
In one of the many fiery exchanges between the Castries Southeast and Castries South MP, Dr. Ernest Hilaire, the issue was brought to the fore. As Joseph was rebutting the proposed multi-million dollar loan redevelopment of Hewanorra International Airport that Dr. Hilaire had brought up during his earlier remarks, Dr. Hilaire uttered an interjection which seemed sufficient reason for the Government Minister to segue into the issue of fraud.
“You talk about $400 million for the airport,” Joseph said to Dr. Hilaire. “Well let me tell you the numbers (you’re) not giving.”
Earlier, Dr. Hilaire had this to say about the issue: “The Prime Minister…said that he was going to get a loan of (US)$150 million for the airport…But it did not come to this House. It did not come to this House to seek approval.”
In response, Joseph stated that: “In the proposal by the IFC, apart from the cost of the airport, there was an additional (US)$160 million added to the (US)$200 million cost of the airport.”
Dr. Hilaire, in response to the numbers provided by Joseph in the above — which contradicted numbers the Opposition Member had brought forward earlier — leveled this at the Government Minister: “So it’s (US)$150 (million). How (did) it reach $200 million? Remember you and airports?”
To that retort, Joseph responded: “I will tell you. Let me tell you. I have stood the test of every investigation. I hope you can do the same.”
To which Dr. Hilaire responded: “Your time coming.”
Joseph then began addressing the investigation conducted on him for fraud: “Madam Speaker, they talk about Members of the House being investigated. Investigations are a good thing because investigations reveal two things: innocence or guilt. That is what the investigation is going to show; who is innocent and who is guilty. Now standing on this side, I can say after 5 years of investigation, I believe I’m innocent.”
He then leveled warning at the Members of the Opposition: “I am hoping that as investigations continue, that they can stand the same test that I have stood and be (found) innocent.”
Joseph went into more details about the aforementioned investigation, stating the amount spent on it and how that amount was not brought before the House.
“It is easy to take cheap shots at people in the Parliament and I’m used to that. I’m used to being a target. They should have told us that they paid $3 million. Don’t you think that affected the cash flow (of Government); the $3 million dollars that was paid to investigate me?
“You hired the most expensive fraud investigator you could find in the U.S. to investigate me: $3 million.”
He then challenged the Opposition to “table what you found (on me) in Parliament.” Joseph said that since Dr.Hilaire wants “the PM to table (a) report on CIP”, “where’s the report on my investigation?” He stressed that the $3 million was taxpayers’ money before stating: “I’m not afraid of what you know.”
Dr. Hilaire did respond to the challenge, stating: “I tried it (tabling the report) at the last sitting and (you) stopped it…I was stopped!” He then said: “You stood up and stopped me!”
In response, Joseph clarified: “The report that the $3 million was paid for. That is the report that I want tabled in the Parliament.”
However, Dr.Hilaire made a clarification of his own, stating: “When I was making the report to the Government and the House…can I bring that document to the House today?”
Issuing his own challenge, Dr.Hilaire said: “I dare you to say yes…Let me bring that document to the House.”
Joseph then insisted that there was not a document that frightens him.
“You think (I’m) afraid of any document? There’s no document (that I’m afraid of.) I always walk around with the most documents. You think (I’m) afraid of documents?”
He then warned: “I hope you can submit your documents.”
Joseph reemphasized that he was not afraid of what the document in question says about him in regards to fraud.
“It is one thing to point fingers at other people and talk about who’s investigating and who’s being investigated. I don’t have to worry about what they’ll find out about me. I already know what they will find out and that’s why I can speak loud from where I am because I know what’s there.”
Returning to the alleged $3 million spent to investigate him, Joseph had this to say: “So the Labour Party administration could spend $3 million of taxpayers’ money to investigate one Member of Parliament and nobody knew; nobody knew.”
Last week’s sitting of the House was rife with back-and-forth between Dr. Hilaire and Joseph.