OCT Enterprises: ‘We tried to restart zipline project twice’

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine – THA

OCT Enterprises, the company being sued by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) for its failure to deliver on a $2.5 million zipline project, is claiming that it had attempted to restart the project on two occasions between 2015 and 2017.

The project was announced by former tourism secretary Tracy Davidson-Celestine in 2015, with OCT Enterprises contracted to build a 1.5km zipline in the Main Ridge Forest Reserve.

The project was never delivered despite the THA’s funds being released. It became a major talking point during the January 2021 THA election with the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) accusing Davidson-Celestine and the former PNM regime of mismanaging the project.

Davidson-Celestine, then PNM Tobago leader, said the project had barely got off the ground when she demitted office in 2017 to assume ambassadorial duties in Costa Rica.

In a media release on Sunday, OCT Enterprises hinted that it was not at fault for the zipline not being built.

The THA has received freezing orders for the bank accounts of the company’s directors, Richard Graham and Darren Hreniuk, in TT and the British Virgin Islands (BVI), where the company is based,

The freezing orders restrain the two from directly or indirectly removing from TT, the BVI, and the US assets held in a First Citizens Bank account in Scarborough and in a first Caribbean International Bank account in Tortola, up to US$500,000, which is the value of the THA’s claim for breach of contract.

The company claimed in its 20 years of doing business, this was the first litigation in any of its canopy projects.

In Sunday’s statement, OCT Enterprises director Darren Hreniuk took umbrage with comments by Chief Secretary Farley Augustine who had claimed on November 18 that the zipline company does not exist.

Augustine had said that a thorough search of the company registry in the BVI was conducted but nothing was found.

Former chief secretary and current PNM Tobago leader Ancil Dennis, who initiated the legal action last year, later showed documents proving that the company was legitimate.

At a press conference on Friday, Augustine and THA lead attorney, John Jeremie, SC, defended the initial efforts to find the company, saying a prestigious firm was contracted in the BVI to handle the search. Jeremie said the team later received a tip-off and searched for OCT ENTERPRISES LTD., which delivered a hit. The company was added as a party to the lawsuit.

Hreniuk said the zipline issue was being used as a political football.

“This is not a game; this is about people’s lives and reputation,” he said. “We have always operated in good faith on all our projects and were available to the THA representatives every time they reached out.

“The same safety we provide to families we provide to our clients for business.”

He added, “We are not a ghost company and we really do exist with more than 35 design-and-build projects in 15 countries. We have engaged with project development entities at all levels, and we have delivered. For a project to be delivered however, both parties must meet their co-operative commitments which we sign on to, and this, we have been doing all over the world for more than 20 years.”

The company said it has been registered in the BVI since 2001, with more than 35 canopy projects successfully completed in 15 countries.

The statement described the company as “the leader in the canopy zipline build-and-design industry in the world,” and found Augustine’s statements “irresponsible, untrue, and tantamount to an abuse of power of high office.”

The company said Hreniuk has more than 30 years’ experience in the industry.

OCT Enterprises said it does business as The Original Canopy Tour.

It said it had a letter of good standing from the British Virgin Islands and has completed projects in many countries, including

Jamaica, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Honduras.

“We design, build and operate our systems based on long-term commitments and it is unfortunate that our good name and

solid reputation had been used as a political football by those in high office and of social influence,” the OCT director added.

“At first, it was the allegation of corruption on this Tobago zipline project, which was a totally fabricated story and now

there are statements from the highest office holders that OCT is ghost. What next?”