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Not to blame

Former controversial Caribbean Airlines chairman George Nicholas

Former controversial Caribbean Airlines chairman George Nicholas

PORT OF SPAIN — Former controversial Caribbean Airlines chairman George Nicholas says he’s not to blame for the company’s present financial state.

The six-year-old airline, of which Nicholas was the chairman for 16 months, has been in the red for the past three years and has suffered millions in losses and write-offs during the same period.

Nicholas’s response was in a statement of case he filed in the High Court against publisher Maxie Cuffie, for a column Cuffie wrote in the Trinidad Guardian on April 21, 2013 titled CAL Heads for Another Crash.

Cuffie’s column had followed a Sunday Express exclusive that CAL had an accumulated debt of $1.4 billion and was seeking a loan to stem its debt.


Nicholas took offence at Cuffie’s statement that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had appointed him (George) as chairman, “someone with no significant track record other than employment in the family firm, but stuck with him when from the outset, George Nicholas 111 proved himself manifestly unequal to the task. The absence of aptitude for the job was demonstrated in public spats with the Ministers of Finance (then Winston Dookeran) and Works and Transport (then Jack Warner) whose opinions were ignored as the PM continued to show favour to the neophyte chairman”.

In his statement of case, Nicholas claimed Cuffie ignored the accomplishments of CAL under his chairmanship.

From November 2010 to April 2012, the period during which CAL was under Nicholas’ tenure, he identified his achievements as:

1. Growing the company from circa $600 million to $3.4 billion within 16 months – this notwithstanding having the fuel hedge retroactively increased by 50 per cent by Cabinet in or about November 2011 after billions of tickets were sold premised on the unadjusted subsidy.

2. Crisis management of an aircraft incident in Guyana. (In July 2011, CAL’s flight BW 523 crash landed at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Timehri, Guyana, and the aircraft split into two. All 163 passengers survived.)

3. Winning the best airline in the region for two years – 2011 and 2012 – beating over 40 competitors.

4. Making CAL the State’s second largest revenue earner.

5. Acquiring two fleets of aircraft (ATR and 767-300s and 8 737-800 aircraft).

6. Reacquiring the London to Port of Spain route.

Nicholas stated Cuffie “ignored the recently published reports of the financial and investment successes of the publicly listed company Mora Ven Holdings Ltd of which the claimant (George) is the executive chairman. Mora Ven Holdings Ltd registered a 90 per cent increase in revenue for the first quarter of 2013 and over 500 per cent increase in profit before tax; its Solaris Renewable Energy division formed in 2010 is now present in ten countries and has active interest in Africa.” (Express)

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