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AG gags Howai in Rahaman shares probe

By Asha Javeed asha.javeed@trinidadexpress.com

Finance Minister Larry Howai says he has been advised by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan to refrain from speaking about the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) investigation into State bank First Citizens’ Initial Public Offering (IPO) share allocation which enabled the bank’s former chief risk officer, Philip Rahaman, to purchase 656,588 shares and sell 634,588 of those stock units four months later.

The Ministry of Finance had commissioned PWC to investigate the IPO allocation and a final report was presented to Howai on Wednesday.

“I presented the final report to Cabinet (yesterday) and the matter was referred to the AG. The advice from the AG is that the Ministry of Finance should not say anything regarding this matter to avoid compromising the legal action arising from the findings,” Howai told the Express.

“You should perhaps speak to the AG,” Howai further directed. 

Yesterday, the board of First Citizens said it was unaware of the purchase of “significant shareholdings” by Rahaman during the bank’s IPO and said as soon as it became aware of the purchase, it ordered its audit committee to investigate the matter. 

In a newspaper advertisement published yesterday and today, the board said Rahaman was fired from the bank on March 25 after the audit committee presented its findings to them. The board did not disclose what those finding were but said it resulted in a loss of confidence and subsequent termination.

In another advertisement published today, Bourse Securities, the broker in the transaction, said: “Bourse has at all times acted within the confines of the law and the regulations that direct the brokerage business.”

It said in a statement signed by managing director and Independent Senator Subhas Ramkhelawan: “What we can say is that to date, as part of our normal ongoing operations, Bourse has responded to all TTSEC requests in relation to client information and that there are no requests outstanding.

 “Bourse Securities Ltd has a duty of confidentiality for all its clients’ transactions. As such, Bourse cannot divulge whether or not any individual or group is a client. Further, Bourse cannot disclose information related to any trade executed on behalf of any client except as may be required by law,” it said.

A Sunday Express investigation revealed Rahaman disposed of 634,588 of the 659,588 shares to his cousin, Imtiaz Rahaman, (chairman of Bourse Securities), to his mother Alia Rita Rahaman, and to five companies of the Rahaman-family controlled Rahamut Group on January 14. Bourse Securities was both the buyer and seller of the transactions.

But shareholder activist Peter Permell believes Ramkhelawan should step down from his role as chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exhange (TTSE) and as an independent senator over his statement in the Senate on Wednesday that he “didn’t break any laws”. 

Permell observed the last person to make such a statement was former CL Financial chairman Lawrence Duprey.

 “Surely, Mr Ramkhelawan, such esteemed and highly respected officeholders like our senators and the chairman of the T&T Stock Exchange must be held to a higher ethical and moral standard than the clichéd ‘I-broke-no-laws’ paradigm. I also believe the senator passed up an ideal opportunity (Wednesday) during the of the 19th sitting of the 4th secession of the Parliament, to give full disclosure on this matter but once again failed to so do.

“In fact, the senator’s continued failure to directly address these serious questions, by engaging in obfuscation and sophistry, has already caused many persons, including myself, to draw negative inferences.  Accordingly, it is with some regret that I have no alternative but to call on the honourable senator to do the ‘honourable thing’ and resign, not only as chairman of the T&T Stock Exchange but also as an Independent Senator, failing which, I am calling on the relevant authorities to have him removed as chairman; and for His Excellency the President to have his senatorial appointment revoked forthwith,” Permell said.

 
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