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HCU, First Citizens: ‘poor corporate governance’

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

St Joseph MP Terrence Deyalsingh yesterday drew parallels between the situation involving former president of the Hindu Credit Union Harry Harnarine and former First Citizens chairman Nyree Alfonso.
He was contributing to the debate on the Purchase of Rights (HCU) bill in the House of Representatives, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, yesterday.
“We have not lear­ned. There are snake oil salesmen among us today,” Deyal­singh said.
“Poor corporate governance and we still have not learned from the days of International Trust. And we will have to sit down as a legislature and look at our laws, to put these people where they belong, which is in Golden Grove... And the reason I say we have not learned is because we had a recent issue with FCB,” he said.
Noting that HCU and all its subsidiaries were governed by one board of directors, Deyal­singh said: “That sounds vaguely fami­liar to an issue raised by Peter Permell at the FCB board meeting where you have one person, Nyree Alfonso, drawing $63,000 because she is the chairman of all the six boards.”
“She is superwoman,” his colleague, Marlene McDonald, chimed in.
Noting Harnarine “is well known to my friends opposite”, Deyal­singh said the Government did not need an act of Parliament to tell it that it was poor corporate governance to have either Harnarine or Alfonso as chairman of all the boards of the groups they chaired.
Referring to the issue of the sale of First Citizens shares by Philip Rahaman to members of his family, Deyalsingh suggested one of the things the Government could do to prevent “snake oil salesmen” is to amend the Securities Exchange Commission legislation to include a “circuit breaker” on the floor of the Stock Exchange.
“You can set limits as to what volume of trade is permissible on any given day, the number of shares traded, or you can set limits for price fluctuations, if trade goes above or below that, the circuit breaker is triggered and trade can either be stopped, suspended or the clearing at the end of the day is looked at,” he said.
He added the trading of over 600,000 First Citizens shares would have been detected under such an arrangement.
Saying Harnarine misused depositors’ funds for the “exponential expansion” of the HCU empire into television and radio, among other things, Deyal­singh said Mohan Jaikaran was involved in the purported acquisition of the television licence from Global Television.
Notwithstanding Jaikaran’s history of association with the HCU, he was made deputy chairman of the Caribbean Airlines board, Deyalsingh said.
Deyalsingh said Harnarine’s greed, corruption and nepotism, led to “monies just being taken (from depositors) and siphoned out by Harry Harnarine himself to lead a grandiose lifestyle, (siphoned) to his wife, to his sister and to his board of directors”.
The St Joseph MP said according to correspondence from 2006, the HCU board approved an allowance of $60,000 a month for Harnarine to perform chairman’s duties for the HCU Group of Companies as well as HCU Financial LLC in Miami, Florida, USA.
“Same thing we did with FCB. We have not learned. Same thing with Nyree Alfonso. One chairman of multiple boards. Is it any wonder that snake oil is for sale?” he asked.
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