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Bhatia: Petrowest Must Answer Questions about Oil Purchases

By on March 8, 2016

SAN JUAN – Senate President Eduardo Bhatia said Tuesday the upper legislative chamber will go to court to force Petrowest Inc. President José González Amador to appear before a Senate panel investigating oil purchase irregularities at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa).

“This is a fundamental issue in this investigation and the Senate will not allow delays or interruptions of any kind,” Bhatia said, adding that he has instructed his advisers to take the necessary measures to ensure González Amador appears before the panel. “We are not going to allow this absence.”

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Aníbal José Torres, who chairs the investigative committee, said that González Amador’s lawyer, Harry Anduze, had instructed his client not to appear before the panel. However, González Amador had already approached the committee to seek immunity, Torres said.

bhatingAccording to the committee chairman, Anduze stated that his client did not want to appear before the senatorial committee because it had waited more than a year before it issued a report without holding any hearings. Torres added that hearings were not a requirement for senatorial committees to issue reports.

In a previous testimony, it was revealed that Trafigura, a Dutch company that was embroiled in a scandal related to the United Nations’ Oil-for-Food program during the Iraq War, had obtained a contract with Prepa through its contacts with Petrowest, virtually Prepa’s biggest oil supplier.   

Bhatia also levied criticism at Carlos M. Aquino, Prepa’s litigation director, for giving contracts to companies that had previously engaged in illegal activities, among them Vitol or Petrobras. Aquino told the Senate committee that the utility had not known of the criminal charges beforehand, and would not have granted such contracts otherwise; he also clarified that his own duties in Prepa were not directly related to the contracting process and were limited to litigation.

Nevertheless, Bhatia blasted Aquino during the hearing, adding that the failure to properly investigate a company’s background before engaging in a business arrangement shows a high degree of incompetence. “Either you knew and it is horrible or you did not know and that is even worse,” he said.

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