Walter M. Higgins, former chief executive officer (CEO) of the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority. (GFR Media)

Walter M. Higgins, former chief executive officer (CEO) of the Puerto Rican Electric Power Authority (PREPA), testified yesterday before a grand jury that investigates the contract awarded to Cobra Acquisitions company to repair the power grid after the Hurricane María.

After testifying, Higgins, in a hostile tone, refused to offer statements. In a brief meeting with reporters in the court elevators area, Higgins marked the button toward the building basement, which connects to an alternate exit with no access to the press.

 “I have to catch a plane”, were his only comments. Then, PREPA former CEO tried to avoid more people getting on the elevator.

According to a source, Higgins, who held the post of PREPA director at the same time, had already been interviewed by federal authorities.

The source added that other PREPA employees were also interviewed and would soon appear before the grand jury. The contracts between Cobra and PREPA were signed by Higgins.

Last July 23, Daniel Hernández, director of PREPA Generation, and José Sepúlveda, director of Transmission and Distribution, also appeared before the grand jury for an interview on the same issue.

Higgins was PREPA´s CEO between March and July 2018. His main goal was to advance the recovery of the power grid after Hurricane María. However, his administration was marked by controversy, since his salary was $450,000 annually, with the possibility of multiplying if he met certain performance metrics.

In May it was revealed that the U.S. District Attorney's Office in San Juan is investigating FEMA Deputy Regional Administrator Ahsha Tribble, who was sent to Puerto Rico after the hurricane, for allegations that she could have unduly influenced Cobra's hiring.

The investigation against Ahsha Tribble focused on whether she improperly favored Cobra, a company that was granted two contracts - totaling $1,845 million – to repair PREPA power grid.  

As El Nuevo Día reported yesterday, at the beginning of the investigation into Cobra contracts, Foreman Electric's CEO, Bront Bird, was interviewed by the Department of Homeland Security´s Office of the Inspector General.

"I spoke to the Inspector General", admitted Bird in a recent interview when asked about a grand jury investigation.

Foreman was one of the three companies that in March 2018 was awarded a PREPA Request for Proposals of up to $1.4 billion, to repair Puerto Rico's power grid after Hurricane María.

The other two companies were Cobra and Mas Tec. But Bird said that only Cobra received tasks.

Bird did not want to give details about his conversations with the Office of the Inspector General.

But, it was the Department of Homeland Security´s Inspector General who started the federal investigation, into Cobra's contract, which is now in the hands of a grand jury.


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