Minister has Shares in Pan Trinbago’s Head Office

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By Prior Beharry

MINISTER of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Randall Mitchell confirms he has an interest in the building that houses Pan Trinbago headquarters at #55 Dondonald Street in Port of Spain.

He said, “I have an interest in the company that owns the property, but that company does not collect rent from Pan Trinbago.”

Mitchell was contacted on Thursday by AZP News after the matter was raised during a meeting of delegates at the VIP Lounge of the Queen’s Park Savannah on Sunday.

Pan Trinbago president Beverly Ramsey-Moore admitted at the meeting that Mitchell was a shareholder in its headquarters.

Ramsey-Moore was asked from the floor if Mitchell had an interest in its new headquarters that Pan Trinbago move into about July 2023.

AZP News obtained a recording of Ramsey-Moore’s response.

She said she did not see any fallout and the rental of the building of about $50,000 was paid to a property manager saying, “Pan Trinbago doesn’t have a lease by anyone with the name of Randall Mitchell.”

Mitchell said he was not instrumental in getting Pan Trinbago to rent the property.

He said, “The company that owns the property was approached by a tenant to enter a lease agreement. That tenant made renovations and subsequently sought a subtenant through an estate agent to occupy a vacant portion of the property. Pan Trinbago presumably responded to the posted notice and the tenant subsequently entered into negotiations and  later subleased the property to Pan Trinbago.”

Asked if he spoke to Ramsey-Moore before the property was rented, Mitchell replied, “Yes. When the tenant advised the company of their intention to enter into the agreement to underlet part of the property to Pan Trinbago, I contacted the President to declare my interest in the property and enquired of her whether there were any alternative options that would be equally suitable for the organisation.”

The minister said he did not see the rental as a conflict of interest.

Mitchell said, “⁠Pan Trinbago is a private body incorporated by Parliament. It is a Special Interest Group which has a reporting relationship with NCC from which it receives funding for Carnival events. Pan Trinbago does not report to the me/Minister nor is it obligated to report to the me/Minister.

“⁠⁠Pan Trinbago does not pay me or the company that I have an interest in any rent.

“The obligations under the lease allowed for the underletting of the property. I played no part in the decision to sublet to Pan Trinbago.”

At the meeting, Ramsey-Moore said, “We have never paid money to anyone by the name of Randall Mitchell.”

She said Pan Trinbago was cramped for space at Victoria Avenue in a place she referred to as the Amar building where they were paying about $5,000 in rent and was evicted.

The Pan Trinbago president said they then moved into a building owned by attorney Israel Khan and was paying a monthly rental of about $15,000. She said the Khan wanted to raise his rent to $20,000 and Pan Trinbago then looked for new facilities.

Ramsey-Moore said, “Building falling apart after Covid, we just had to get out and we went searching for a building.”

She said one day information came “to us” and they called the number and spoke to the property manager and made arrangement to move into the building at Dondonald Street.

Ramsey-Moore said Pan Trinbago pay $50,000 in rental for the building and an additional $20,000 for the car park.

She described the new head office as a “comfortable space” where bands can come in and have activities to raise funds.

Ramsey-Moore said she did not see the minister’s alleged shareholding as a conflict of interest.

Randall Mitchell

She said, “What you are telling me… if anyone of you have any kind of business we not allowed to support you because it is a conflict of interest. But if you have a restuarant and you decide to have a brunch and we come by you to eat … they say allyer watch they favouring… and they this and they that and they next.

“If you have a business and we can’t do business with you because you are a member then something wrong.”

She said it was something that Mitchell mentioned to her.

Ramsel-Moore said, “That is not something that you should broadcast to the whole world…”

She said, “The fact is the minister mention that to me and I told him just like that. When we are moving out because we had already started the work … 

“I do not see this as a conflict of interest at all because we pay our rent. Government doesn’t pay Pan Trinbago a subvention. We do not receive a subvention from government for administrative fees to say well alright, government giving us expenses for administrative expensive administrative fees so we…

“We write our own cheques to Gajadar or LMG Property Managers and they are the people we are dealing with. SoI do not see any conflict of interest at all unless people want to put a spin on it to make bachannal… Just like they making with Al Rawi name.

Pan Trinbago has no ties to the government. If we want to take on government in the morning in the streets we can do that… we are a social force, we are a community based organisation we are and NGO we are a non-profit organisation.”

Beverley Ramsey-Moore

Ramsey Moore said, “If after we found out because the minister didn’t hide it. He called, when the property managers told him who was occupying. He informed me that he had a share in the building and I said I don’t care about that. We want a place to go. If we didn’t go there where would we have been today.

“It was no secret. There is no secret, it’s a building, there were other people there. There are people of who knew that that building that he is a shareholder, of course people know so it was not a hide-and-seek whatever, if anything should come to the fore as you are thinking there is conflict of interest, there is no conflict of interest because government does not pay our salary.

“Government only give money for Carnival to Pan Trinbago. Get it straight, we are not governmental and when they give money it is because we execute a product a component of the Carnival, after that is catch arse, after that we have to find ways and means.”

Ramsel-Moore said at the meeting, “That is not something that you should broadcast to the whole world…”

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