Burke Denies Sharing PetroJam Bid with PNP

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Former General Secretary of the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) Paul Burke, says he has no direct relationship with the Nicolas Maduro administration in Venezuela.

Mr. Burke is CEO of Cheriton Trading and Investments, which he says submitted a USD$55-million offer to Venezuela in November, for their 49-per cent stake in Petrojam. He made the disclosure in a letter to Prime Minister Andrew Holness over the weekend.

In written responses to several questions from Nationwide News today, Mr. Burke says he also did not share his business interests with the PNP.

Mr. Burke says his company, Cheriton Trading and Investments, has been in operation for at least seven years, but was largely dormant as he focused on other projects.

The former PNP General Secretary says he was approached – but didn’t say when or by whom – to ascertain if the Venezuelan government was interested in selling. He says due to a non-disclosure agreement, he’s not allowed to reveal the names of the members of the consortium.

However, he says they’re all Jamaicans, most of whom reside in Jamaica. Nationwide News asked why he was chosen to broker this deal, and whether he has a relationship with the Maduro administration.

Mr. Burke says he has no direct relationship with the Maduro administration, and that he’s been working through an attorney based in Venezuela.

That person is to receive 400-thousand US dollars out of his USD$1-million commission, if the deal is successful.

Mr. Burke also says he did not share his business interests with the PNP, partly because of the non-disclosure agreement.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, has raised questions about the PNP’s relationship with the Maduro administration.

Last week, she said tripartite discussions were taking place in relation to the buyback of Venezuela’s shares in Petrojam suggesting the PNP was involved in the talks.

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The Opposition has denied this.

However, they have in recent days been pushing the Government to abandon its plan to use parliament to unilaterally retake Venezuela’s shares in the State-owned oil refinery.

Mr. Burke says due to the non-disclosure agreement, he’s unable to respond to questions about whether the group planned to maintain and upgrade the Petrojam refinery, if the bid was successful. He says the group may also be interested in obtaining the Government of Jamaica’s majority shares, but this would depend first on whether they were able to acquire Venezuela’s shares, as well as, the cost of Jamaica’s shares. He says the Venezuelan embassy acknowledged receipt of the offer, but never formally responded to it.

In his letter to Prime Minister Holness, Mr Burke says the group later learned that PDVSA was interested in pursuing another offer, higher than theirs. He told our news centre he’s now focused on other projects that have potential.

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