Kamla accuses PM of lying about not knowing Indian businessman Jindal; claims visit connected to Venezuela

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Kamla accuses PM of lying about not knowing Indian businessman Jindal; claims visit connected to Venezuela

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has slammed the Prime Minister for stating that he did not know Indian businessman Naveen Jindal before.

Speaking at the United National Congress (UNC) meeting at the party’s Chaguanas headquarters on Monday, Persad-Bissessar noted an Express report where Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley had indicated that he was unaware that Jindal, chairman of Jindal Power and Steel Ltd, was facing corruption charges in India. Rowley had said that the meeting with Jindal came after his (Rowley’s) trip to India.

However, she said the corruption-accused Indian businessman was in Trinidad and Tobago last year.

Rowley held a meeting with Jindal on June 17 at the Diplomatic Centre, Port of Spain, to discuss the former Petrotrin refinery.

On Sunday at the PNM’s sports and family day event at Skinner Park, San Fernando, Rowley said by August the Government will announce if there are any takers for the refinery.

On Monday night, Persad-Bissessar showed a release from the Ministry of Energy’s website which indicated that Energy Minister Stuart Young had met with Jindal on March 27, 2023.

She noted the caption which stated that Young, along with deputy permanent secretary Karinsa Tulsie, had received an introductory courtesy call from Jindal at the ministry’s office at the International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.

“Over 15 months ago and you now come to tell me that you didn’t know this man on corruption charges? You had a whole year and more to do due diligence, you bring this man in the (Diplomatic) Centre to make a pappyshow and a fool of yourself! And embarrassing Trinidad and Tobago,” she said.

She said Jindal was here in March 2023 and Rowley went to India in May 2024 —a whole year after.

“Rowley claims he doesn’t know about Jindal’s corruption charges because Jindal’s visit was a result of Rowley’s trip to India in May 2024, but this man here meeting your Government since March 2023,” she said.

Persad-Bissessar noted an article dated March 21, 2024 in the Business Standard newspaper.

She read: “Jindal Steel and Power Ltd has taken over operations at Venezuela’s largest iron-ore complex, the first for a private-run firm in the South American country’s heavy industry in over a decade, just months after striking a deal with the Nicolás Maduro government.”

Persad-Bissessar said: “So, what we are seeing is a Venezuela, Trinidad-India connection. Was it the Venezuelans who put the Rowley Government on to Mr Jindal to get the Petrotrin refinery?” she asked.

Rowley in an Express interview, said: “I cannot speak to the many people who Minister Young would have met or spoken to but what I can tell you is that Mr Jindal came into my view from India when Ambassador Gopaul and the leader of the group, in the context of my visit and also the High Commissioner’s normal duties raised that name and business organisation as one of the many potential investors who were to be received in Trinidad and Tobago.

“He came. Some are here now and others will arrive later. It is an effort that is bearing fruit so I could see why Mrs Persad-Bissessar is so antsy and enthusiastic in trying to turn off and chase away potential investors with her bile and other upsetting flavours.”

Rowley said: “Maybe if she spent more time in leading her Humpty Dumpty party instead of spreading misinformation about the work of the Government she would not sound so desperate.”