Speaking at a hastily arranged press-conference in the Cascade Room of the Hilton Trinidad, Lok Jack said the parties are trying to hache out the details of an anti-corruption clause which is to be inserted in the purchase contract for the Global Express XRS.
“If by next week Monday I don’t sign the purchase agreement they (Bombardier) give me back my money ($3.1million deposit) and they will go on to sell the jet to another person...Bombardier is becoming a little bit agitated over all the things (happening).They have other options,” Lok Jack said.
And if the deal fails to get off the ground, government will be refunded a $63million advance paid into a local CA bank account as collateral for the deal, he said. He added the airline was standing firm to the insertion of the anti-corruption clause, but Bombardier has been hesitant.
“We are standing firm for some clauses and Bombardier is looking at it from the point of view of it being very precedential. They have never done this before...Their lawyers are concerned that if they do something like this they will have to do it for a lot more clients. They not too sure about the whole thing,” he said, adding, “unless they can do that we are very loathe to go forward.”
In a written statement read out to the press, Lok Jak further noted, “Bombardier has agreed to the principle of inserting a comprehensive anti-corruption clause with sanctions into the contract, the wording of which is currently under discussion between our respective North American lawyers.”
The clause proposed by CA forces all parties to be bound by a code of ethics and business conduct which complies with the Canadian anti-corruption laws and imposes sanctions for any bribes to “induce or influence the decision of the buyer.”
Lok Jack was not optimistic of the prospect of CA finding another jet if the Bombardier proposal falls through.
“We would look elsewhere,” he said, “(but) it would be difficult.”
Probed on the true origins of the CA jet proposal, Lok Jack stuck to the line that it was CA which approached the Ministry of Finance over the jet, and for the first time revealed that he personally approached the Prime Minister in “late January” over the issue after having thought up the idea with an unnamed official.
Asked if the PM had asked him to find a way to acquire a jet, a momentarily shaken Lok Jack lowered his tone of voice and said, “To find a way to acquire a jet? No there nothing (muttering) he never asked me to find a way to acquire a jet... Find a way to acquire a jet? No!”
Asked about the exact date of CA’s $3.1million down payment for the jet, he said he could not remember it. He also could not remember the date on which he first approached the Prime Minister over the idea. He further could not remember the exact date when CA received a $400 million “equity injection” from government for the proposed jet acquisition.
Asked to disclose crucial correspondence between CA and the Ministry of Finance detailing the “discussions” which took place over the $400million jet proposal, Lok Jack flat out refused.
“No I’m not going to do that. I wouldn’t do that...why should I do that?” he asked.
Questioned on the issue of the apparent conflict of interest over his position as Chairman of Guardian Holdings Limited, a company which currently provides a private jet service for the use of Prime Minister Patrick Manning among other clients, Lok Jack clammed up.
He called the PM “a good customer”. But asked if the GHL jet was making a profit for that company, he said, “I prefer not to answer that question.”
Asked if the CA jet proposal came up only as a salve over any profit problems with the GHL jet, Lok Jack testily asserted that the issue was irrelevant.
“GH and CA they are... separate,” he said. Probed if the GHL jet was making a loss or not, he once more said, “I am not going to answer that question.”
An aide at the press conference abruptly announced that Lok Jack would take only two more questions when these questions on GHL were posed. The CA Chairman continued to field questions nonetheless.
Lok Jack said work on the jet was virtually finished and is “coming off the production line”. He hit out at critics who asked why CA approached the Government and not the international financing market for financing, asking why this was necessary if the money was being provided.
Speaking in what he said was his personal capacity he addressed critics of the $400million jet acquisition saying it is not right to question the deal on the basis of arguing that the money could better be spent elsewhere in the country such as in the health sector.
“It is not monetary constraints that stop hospitals from having hospital beds...It is not a zero sum game,” he said. “Money is not the issue in respect of why things are not being delivered in this country. Systems, methods and the way we do things (are to blame),” he said.
He said that even if the $400M was returned to the Government, it did not mean that there would be more beds in the hospital. “That is not going to happen,” he said.
Echoing Works and Transport Minister Colm Imbert who at Cabinet last week emphasised that the deal was not a done deal, Lok Jack said CA may not go through with the jet purchase despite having already paid a $3.1million refundable deposit.