Wednesday, March 07, 2012

PILOT UNDER PROBE: Email reveals US Embassy investigating ex-employee following Gibbs' aircraft deal

Daniel Condon

The United States Embassy has been conducting queries into a former employee who is a director of the Trinidad and Tobago Air Support Company (TTAS), the company with which Commissioner of Police Dwayne Gibbs signed a $900,772 lease for light aircraft services.

The US Embassy confirmed yesterday that Daniel Condon, an airline pilot, was previously assigned to the Embassy’s Military Liaison Office, Port of Spain, and that he was employed at the US Embassy from October 2009 to July 16, 2011.

On July 14, 2011, Condon was appointed director of the TTAS, a company which its managing director Dirk Barnes incorporated on June 16, 2011, with Kevon Stafford.

Both Barnes and Stafford are former soldiers. By December 2011, the TTAS was given the contract by Gibbs.

Sources told the Express investigations were being conducted by the US Embassy’s Military Liaison Office into Condon’s alleged business transactions while employed with the Embassy.

While employed with the Embassy, Condon was paid by Deputy Commissioner of Police Jack Ewatski on two occasions—June 12, 2012, and July 3, 2010—to go flying with him.

Condon resigned from the Embassy on July 16, 2011.

Ewatski has said he hired Condon, a certified flight instructor, to fly with him so he could hone his flying skills.

E-mails obtained by the Express through reliable sources also show that Condon himself admitted he was under probe.

Sources said Condon’s active role in the business of Eddie Dallsingh, managing director of Navi Comm Avionics Ltd, was also under scrutiny.

Dallsingh had previously disclosed that he introduced (Condon) to his project which he was working on since 2002—the use of light sport aircraft in the fight against crime. Navi Comm did not get the contract.

In an e-mail dated September 5, 2011, addressed to Barnes, Dallsingh and a man named David Lewis, Condon stated: “Unfortunately I need to keep quite (quiet) for a while WRT (with regard to) my visit to Trinidad and our project.

“For some unexplained reason, the new military liaison officer (someone I have never met) has launched an investigation against me for my ‘business’ dealings while attached to the embassy.

“The ambassador is out of the country right now, but will take care of this problem when she returns. This guy is coming perilously close to slander and defamation...
“Let me let the dust settle, and the Ambassador but (put) him in his place... I’ll keep you posted.”

Contacted yesterday, Dallsingh confirmed two officers from the US Embassy contacted and visited him in January and February of this year, querying Condon’s conduct and dealings, if any, with his company.

He also confirmed receiving the above e-mail from Condon.

Dallsingh refused to offer further comment, except to say he trusted Condon to help him secure a deal with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service as he (Condon) was an employee of the US Embassy and had many important links.

In response to e-mailed questions from the Express yesterday, which included whether Condon was under probe and whether the Embassy was aware of the content of the e-mail sent by Condon, Alexander McLaren, US Embassy public affairs officer, stated:

“All US government employees are expected to uphold the highest standards of personal integrity and avoid any appearances of impropriety. Specific rules apply to specific positions and situations, but it is our general policy that we do not comment on any possible investigations.”

McLaren was asked: “Does Mr Condon have the authority to engage in contractual relationships with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service while employed at the Embassy?” His response was, “No.”

He also emphasized that “the United States Government has no involvement in any light aircraft project with any ministry, agency or service of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago”.

“The US Embassy maintains a robust and collaborative partnership with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago on a number of security-related and other areas,” stated McLaren.

The Express tried to contact Condon for comment, but neither calls to his phone nor e-mails were answered.

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