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The Govt’s sacred cow: Why everyone should care about the CL Financial cover-up

“This country should rest comfortably in the knowledge that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago…will do nothing to impede the flow of justice in this or any matter. And […] will do everything within its duty and authority to facilitate the holding to account any and all persons who may have been found to have questions to answer. Like every other citizen, it is our expectation that as rights to fair treatment are protected, justice must always take its course swiftly.”

Extract from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s statement to Parliament on the Colman Report on Friday 1 July 2016.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. (Copyright News.Gov.TT)
Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
(Copyright News.Gov.TT)

This season is always one of reflection and re-dedication for me, with the two-month transition from Emancipation Day on 1 August to Independence on the 31 August, then onto Republic Day on 24 September. I always spend this spell in some sober reflection, in between the life.

It seems to me that the very sequence of events and the consequent holidays in the season imbue it with an inner meaning in terms of a national transition to some kind of depth and purpose. Emancipation to Independence to Republican status. Maybe that is just sentimental of me, but let us see.

If we are not alert, there is a real danger that the details of this entire CL Financial matter—both the failure of the group and the huge bailout—will be made to disappear in an epic legal mangle. There has never been a conviction for large-scale white-collar crime in our country.

The CL Financial collapse is such a serious episode that there is inescapable evidence which can ensure consequences. At the same time, the main players are so wealthy and influential that they can devise an effective way to avoid justice, unless we exercise vigilance in the public interest.

The Colman Report into the failure of the CL Financial group was submitted to the President on 22 June 2016, completing the Commission of Enquiry which started in early 2011. It took over five years and reportedly in excess of TT$80M to get to this stage.

Photo: Former CL Financial chairman Lawrence Duprey.
Photo: Former CL Financial chairman Lawrence Duprey.

The Report was submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions whose advice is that its publication be delayed, pending completion of investigations and probable prosecutions. Presumably, the fear is that, if the Colman Report is published now, those accused persons would be entitled to claim negative pre-trial publicity in their defense, especially as those would be jury trials.

On 12 July, the opposition UNC requested a copy of the Colman Report under the Freedom of Information Act, but there has been no announcement as to an official reply. If that matter gets to court it will be very interesting to see what are the exemptions claimed to refuse publication of the results of this public enquiry.

Deep, tragic irony is on display. The previous government, in which the UNC was the dominant element in the People’s Partnership, strongly opposed my own Freedom of Information request for the details of the CL Financial bailout.

The High Court ruled in my favour on 22 July 2015 and this is now before the Appeal Court, with the newly-elected PNM administration pursuing the appeal filed under the previous administration.

In relation to the Colman Report, the PNM administration is now taking a different position from that of the previous PP administration, which published the Colman Report into the failure of the Hindu Credit Union on 16 July 2014, the very day it was received.

Photo: Then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) shakes hands with her successor, Dr Keith Rowley, en route to Nelson Mandela's funeral in South Africa. (Courtesy News.Gov.TT)
Photo: Then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) shakes hands with her successor, Dr Keith Rowley, en route to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa.
(Courtesy News.Gov.TT)

So the UNC, which opposed my Freedom of Information request is now invoking the same Act to request publication of the Colman Report in the cause of transparency and accountability.

Colman’s HCU Report makes recommendations for the DPP to proceed with testing whether criminal charges should be laid against Harry Harnarine and his cohort of HCU Chiefs. I do not recall the DPP making any complaint on the immediate publication of Colman’s HCU Report, so what is the position?

Did the publication of that Report impair prosecutions which may have been made? If not, when can we expect serious criminal charges to be laid against Harnarine and his cohort?

As to the PM’s statement on the importance of swift justice, I do not believe that the existing Fraud Squad, Court System or DPP’s office can handle a case of this size and complexity with any due speed or effectiveness. The only way for the prospect of swift justice to be realized is for arrangements to be made for a special team of prosecutors operating within a dedicated court, funded by a ring-fenced budget.

Similar arrangements were made when the State was anxious to secure convictions against the Dole Chadee gang against a background of the strict timelines which operate in relation to the Death Penalty. If the State can create these effective arrangements to ensure ‘swift justice’ against violent criminals, we must now lobby for these to be used in the CL Financial case.

Photo: A court room gavel.
Photo: A court room gavel.

We cannot continue with business as usual. If the State is serious about achieving swift justice, it must put effective, swift arrangements in place to prosecute the CL Financial ‘kleptocrats’.

About Afra Raymond

Afra Raymond is a Chartered Surveyor and Managing Director of Raymond & Pierre Ltd. He is the ex-president of Institute of Surveyors and immediate past president of the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry (JCC), having served between December 2010 and November 2015.

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84 comments

  1. Am in agreement with the views of the writer. Time to get going white collar criminals get away too much in this land. But guess what they are still bandits

    • Lets focus on drugs, alcohol, quality of education for areas of change. Individually nor collectively can white collar crime be controlled in the current environmnet.

      The ability to impact white collar crime is a fantasy of the bourgeoisie. In the interim the oligarchy has captured the State.

      The bourgeoisie who lament from their comfortable homes about justice need to speak to the masses. The masses require justice, until we can courageously speak to/for those with the least we will not improve our society

      If we vex because Caicos rip off or Ansa MCAL over charge then we not serious

  2. If we don’t learn from the Clico fiasco we are doomed to repeat it.

  3. Earl Best

    “If the State is serious about achieving swift justice…”

    I think there is a larger issue of achieving justice, swift or not. If I felt Rowley and co. really wanted to get to the root of the matter, I’d be prepared to give them all tghe time they need. But I can’t forget that Andre Monteil was the treasurer of the PNM; I don’t believe Rowley and co. can forget that either.

  4. Afra

    Politicians throughout the world are employed by businessmen, this is occurs in any democracy within a capitalist system. Did anyone from Goldman Sachs, Citibank, AIG, Barclays or any other US or UK financial institution suffer consequences.

    In fact the bailout of AIG in the US has proven to be very profitable for US government, similarly the bailout of CL Financial has proven profitable for the GOTT. By removing the Clico Investment Bank license and bailing out CLICO, our government did what most other governments had done. Shockingly, the easy investigation as to whom at the Central Bank Insurance Unit did not insure that CLICO maintained its statutory reserve can, has and will not happen.

    I look at the scenario differently, by now the GOTT should have returned control of CL Financial to its shareholders such that the company can be run by proper professionals. I find it particularly suspicious that assets of CL Financial are be sold off unnecessarily to specific parties.

    The balance of power requires two political parties, the balance of power also requires multiple corporate empires financing politicians. The largest threat to our democracy is one group funding politicians. I say give Duprey back his company NOW so he can fund both parties, competition in financing politics is the closest we can get to democracy.

    Integrity Commissions, DPP, TTPS are only symbols of justice, not justice.

    • Sean,

      I understand the setup and the struggle is one to both clarify the issues for the people who still want to believe that this not a deep, toxic case of ‘State Capture’…there, that is what I really think has happened here…Our struggle is to deepen understanding and achieve justice…my litigation is part of that…

      On the question of returning the company to Duprey, that proposal was already dismantled at ‘Steal of a Deal’ (2015) https://wordpress.com/post/afraraymond.net/5697.

      Thanks

      Afra Raymond

      http://www.afraraymond.net

      • Afra

        I appreciate and respect your commitment to understanding and justice as its certainly needed. I believe you well know the global relationships of capital that mandate the capture of the “State”. Sadly, the absence of crtitical thinking in our education system combined with a culture of mass entertainment fueled with alcohol is not encouraging.

        I will review the additional information you provided.

        Thanks

  5. So the foot soldiers are made to look like the asses by the senior brass. YES they are unequipped and under trained and that’s no fault other than the ones whos calling the shots; the Gov (whomever that may be)

  6. Well, remember Gibbs/Ewatski? well lets not forget that they were FORCES out by some of their Gibbs and Co were unravelling the crime on the east/west corridor

    • Part of the group forcing them out was the Police Association who seem to say but not really want changes made that will improve the TTPS, imo.

    • well, the Police Association is the union for the officers correct?

    • Yes and acting like the kind of union that will prevent action against its members even when justified.

    • does it remind you of any other body that represent state paid workers?

    • isnt thee a need to have a change in approach to the way they handle the respective businesses? Mind you a change in mindset OVERALL is needed. A top-down Change is sooo needed for the betterment of the country.

    • Problem is that whatever is suggested that should work and make all necessary improvements can be objected to by the Police Association who will then not be on board. Look at their about face on the powers of the PCA when one of their own was taken to court to get information on the Day of Policing that he did not want to provide.

    • I don’t agree with that statement as several of these senior officers were office holders in the Association as juniors, and their support on issues can be the attributed to their advancement in the Service. The present acting Commissioner was an Executive member of the Association. Most times members interest are sidelined or used as leverage in pursuit of upward mobility by certain individuals in these Associations. Governments and businesses have offered inducements to Association/Union leaders. This has always been so. Butler stands out for being unwavering in his fight for worker’s rights whilst others accepted Senatorial appointments etc. Promotional opportunity is one of the tools used to get buy in from these Association leaders to suppress member’s rights or implement policy by the respective administration. The rule which apply to other Associations do not apply to them in that, you cannot be promoted during the period for which you hold office in the Association.

    • Lester explain to me how a rookie out of training college and not have a vest to wear out on duty?

    • Out of stock. It happens. A vest has a limited shelf life. The Service has limited resources to spend on recurrent expenditure that is increasing.

    • Economics 101. Scarcity, finite resources to allocate to unlimited needs.

    • If u have a mandate to hire, let’s say 300 new officers every yr of the Nxt 5 yrs, would u do something to ensure your officers are well equipped?

    • I eh buying dat economic 101 reasoning simply because it have all the law security experts in TNT and as expats that in this day and age it’s not that difficult to source

    • The government does not have a blank cheque book so certain items will be put on the back burner. To avoid this, the Police Association must negotiate to put a vest in their collective agreement as part of their uniform entitlement. If not it will not be mandatory for it to be an item budgeted for every year.

    • From an HR point of view I would recommend a hiring freeze

    • Negotiate a vest in the CBA? Have they ever heard of a Bonefide Occupational Requirement? Lester, you take that to ANY HR PROFESSIONAL, and they will be pissed!!

    • Well based on our former foreign Commissioners we are over resourced based on our ratio of officers to population. My opinion is different. The Service is top heavy and has caused a crab in barrel mentality where promotion is not a reward for performance. I would get rid of most Senior positions above Superintendent. We getting what we are paying for.

    • I agree. This is not the private sector. Different rules. Whilst, under OSHA others can refuse to perform a duty without a vest, a Policeman cannot in a situation where his/her failure would endanger the lives of others. This is why in my opinion it must be included as a term and condition of employment as part of their uniform entitlement.

    • And then we bitch and complain when they work to rule

    • Working to rule is a different issue. It can be considered as industrial action if proven.

    • work to rule due to the lack of equipment for the job is what it is.

    • all in all, they need to catch up to First-World standards and stop playing the ass with people lives

    • First world standard requires a total transformation in human resources and equipment that in my opinion we are not ready for. It would be a culture shock if you ask me. Policing has to be community based except for white collar crime. We don’t have buy in from the community with the efforts of law enforcement. Most persons don’t know the police officers in the station in their district as they are not residing in the community. How can the police be effective if they don’t know who are the residents in the community? We are seeing children on the streets out of uniform or in uniform during school hours and not questioning them as to why they are not in school etc. Community Policing can be a very effective tool. What is the purpose of the Community Comfort patrols passing in their SUVs with windows up? They don’t know anyone in the neighbourhood and residents don’t know them. Then again getting it right would affect the billion dollar private security business.

    • Lester I think we’ll achieve transformation when the politicians who steal, make ah jail

    • Wishful thinking. What legislative support is there to do that? We don’t have persons with the political will or willing to put their life on the line to do that. The problem is much more complex and dangerous than you think.

    • Lester Logie Anand Ramesar and the present head were promoted while they were (and are) officers.

    • Lester Logie…valid point re: community policing. But from my experience, officers are also woefully unaware of what exactly the law is. Moreover, they seem powerless/unwilling to enforce it. We need to stop playing politics and the blame game. What are the statistics for each police station? How many reports? How many solved? Does the police service have proper internal communication? Do they have access to resources? Training? Do they keep up to date with the latest crime strategies-which are shown on tv, btw? Still no computerised fingerprint database. Or DNA bank. Tax laws are a joke. No co-ordination with banks, BIR, Company registry, Min of Legal Affairs etc. It is easy to blame the police, but what are the targets? We are promoting ppl based on seniority not performance. How can ur division have the highest unsolved rates for petty crimes, for eg, but u up for promotion. And the areas that are not performing, have they requested resources after identifying challenges? Look at the murder rate and the number of medical examiners and foresnic centres we have. Until we start demanding accountability, if a nation signs a petition and sends to the President, for eg, seeking release of Clico report, it has more weight than just writing on fb. We have to be vigilant because there are hidden interests at every corner. And only those in the middle get trampled.

    • Yes. They are paid by the state and promoted whilst serving on the Executive of the Association. Executive Members of other Associations such as TTUTA and PSA are seconded to the Association for the term of elected office. This secondment means that they are paid by the Association during this period and cannot be promoted whilst serving on the Association’s Executive. This removes the level of influence over them. This is a flaw in the application of the regulations governing the Protective Service Associations. These Associations are used as an avenue to move up the ranks by most office holders at the expense of members individual grievances etc. There are gaps in the Regulations governing Associations and Unions that have not been dealt with.e.g. the Trade Union Act Section 16.4 states that the Register of Trade Unions may at any time order the books, accounts, vouchers, documents, securities and funds of any Trade Union to be inspected at or audited by a person appointed by him. Do you know who the Register of Trade Unions is? There has never been one appointed which is a breach of the Statute. Therefore, no Union has ever been inspected or Audited to date although it is required by Statute. Who is responsible for ordering the inspection or auditing of the books of these Associations in the Protective Service and other Associations in the Public Sector ? No one! It is not mentioned in the Acts that gave them recognition. Basically making them a law unto themselves. In the UK there are several controls put in place to avoid these shortcomings via legislation making certain breaches a criminal offence punished by a term of imprisonment.

    • Then how do we go about fixing the system? How do we get the proper legislation passed in order to give the police the ability to protect and to serve?

    • We have never supported the men in blue based on our past history. We had to bring persons from outside to join the force which says a lot about our views of the Police. Their work is much harder now. Officers must come from the communities in which they serve to be effective and to get buy in for the fight against crime. They will know who is who and should be able to respond to incidents appropriately. My opinion is that Superintendents must be given autonomy to run their divisions and eliminate most of those positions above them. The Commissioner is an Accounting officer which is a good change. ?? is whom do we want to Police? We can’t be pigeon holed into dealing only with certain crimes. I am of the opinion that corruption is what brings down a country and turns it into a failed state. Who has the political will to deal with corruption by passing laws and hiring Police officers above the entry level to deal with corruption? Our Parliament is the key.

    • Lester Logie…actually as far as I am aware, there was a female Registrar of Trade Unions. The position, however, was part time. I am not sure what, if anything, the association’s constitution says about that. But the justification would be nobody would want to serve if it hinders promotion.

    • Nerisha Mohammed, a Registrar of Trade Unions is a statutory requirement. By not appointing one, it allows the State to be challenged via Judicial Review proceedings. You should not have different Government Regulations governing Associations in the Publc Sector. It is discriminatory to allow one set to receive promotions in the Public Service whilst holding office in an Association but deny another set from the same promotion as office holders. Is that a fair procedure? I am a supporter for having Unions and Associations. However, I expect Unions/Associations to practice the same good governance, accountability, transparency and ethical behaviour, etc that they demand from their partners in the State and Private Sector. They receive millions in dues annually from members who in most cases don’t question expenditure, being in most cases ,unqualified to do so. The Registrar, by appointing inspectors to check or Audit their books, ensures that dues are spent and organisations are operating according to their constitutions. These inspections and audits also help to ensure that Unions are not operating outside their remit and taxes are paid on business operations carried out which may not be tax exempt.

    • Agreed. However, I am sure you are aware of how long it took to appoint the Recognition Board-and the consequences (delay in recognition). And sometimes, union members may just be willing to go with the flow rather than have to think and challenge the status quo. Else one may have to question whether they can engage in business, when was the last election etc. It’s also a matter of how/if it’s being dealt with-wait on a complaint or be proactive.

  7. I agree Judy-ann. Thane, I agree that the TTPS is under-resourced in general. But I think you are giving them a massive benefit of the doubt if you say that is the only reason there has been no mark whatsoever on white collar crime involving people from influence.
    Like Judy, I believe something else to be afoot.

    • Ofcourse it is not the only reason and I apologise if that was the message received. As alluded to by Judy-ann Stewart , there are a number of investigations which have not been completed. Therefore, it is clear that the insurmountable challenge at this time is the investigative hurdle and if the entity responsible for investigations is TTPS, it is safe to reason that the problem rest there, for now.

  8. I don’t agree with the statement that the TTPS is under-resourced in this regard. When a SPECIFIC investigation is given to named individuals to deal with as a PRIORITY, a result must be forthcoming in a reasonable (max 1 month) timeframe. There have been several such investigations which you all know about, where the result has not seen the light of day. I contend that there must be another reason for the results not being provided or for the investigations not being completed. The acting COP has to answer and action taken. To do otherwise is to allow this nonsense to continue to the detriment of TT. This is where we need to protest!

  9. As long as we sit back and allow the premier investigative institution(Trinidad and Tobago Police Service) to be under resourced and encumbered, we ought not to expect any ‘white collar’ crime to be properly investigated. The Financial Intelligence Bureau of the TTPS has been in existence for just over five years and what has the TTPS shown to justify the existence of this elite unit? The police service is not attractive to people who possess the requisite skills to investigate complex crimes. Additionally, I think the ineptitude of the Police Service is a perfect embodiment of our society’s perpetual quest and satisfaction to reach the ‘lowest hanging fruit’.

    • Thank you! We keep having the same convos…where’s the change gonna come from when you have “independents”, batting for their side secretly and cyber bullying people who don’t agree with them?

  10. Justice delayed is justice denied !!!1

  11. Just the fact that successive Governments are trying to keep this hidden has me almost as curious as Afra!

    • Keeping in mind clico financed both political parties. What I am curious about…a case in the US…down to the man’s underwear (literally) was sold to recover funds. To date, not one board member held to account -never mind anyone else. The collapse of a $b business…and the board did not see the writing on the wall? At this point, we can probably assume that nothing will come og this.

    • I am not curious at all. This mess started long ago, the then Gov of the CB is now an advisor to the MoF…what allyuh expecting here? As I said when Afra first posted this and tagged me in it, we are constantly going round in circles, why should we be surprised. Those words out of KR’s mouth was back in July 2015, he was OL then, today, the picture has changed for him…we keep talking, talking, talking, think anyone taking we on?!

    • No, Savitri Maharaj – in fact I am quoting Dr Rowley’s statement to Parliament on Friday 1st July 2016, when he had been PM since September 2015…

    • Hahaha! Yes, sorry Afra, the only excuse I can conjure up is probably, I can’t lie well) he was saying that to appease the public, knowing full well that the DPP would refuse them publishing.

  12. What exactly can the electorate do to motivate their elected representatives to work in their interest?
    I don’t think our political system is really designed for that.

  13. I don’t thing the politicians will ever give us anything willingly. I often feel that they are there to serve their financial sponsors rather than the faceless masses who vote for them in private.

  14. I wonder if people genuinely voted for change?

  15. Thank you…we have to get the change we voted for, eh?

  16. The only way for the prospect of “swift justice” to be realized is for the powers that be to want it.
    Until then everything they can and may do is window dressing to appease the masses.
    No amount of systems, infrastructure, policies, yadda yadda will genuinely help this country until those in power are truly on the side of the people.