PUZZLED: Carlos John

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CLICO PROBE CURIOUS

Former CL Financial executive Carlos John queries timing of police investigation

By Irene Medina

Former senior CL Financial executive Carlos John said he found it "a bit curious" and "odd" that the police have launched a criminal investigation into CLICO and CL Financial executives, even as the commission of enquiry is yet to be concluded.

"Of course I am not too au courant with the legalities involved, but I have just finished reading the article and find it a bit odd. The timing of it is curious. I would have thought that the police action would have been taken after the commission of enquiry" he said.

His comment was in reference to an article published in yesterday's Express, headlined "Police probe CLICO execs", which was based on a statement from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) that a "full criminal investigation" had been started by the police into the conduct of former executives involved in the collapse of the multi-billion-dollar institution.

John, a former works minister and close associate of former CL Financial Ltd executive chairman Lawrence Duprey, surmised, however, that DPP Roger Gaspard may have caused the probe to be initiated at this time, based on the "disquiet caused in the national community by the disclosures before the commission".

"The DPP is well within his right," he said, adding, "after all, we are talking not just about any financial institution, but CLICO as an indigenous institution. I grew up hearing my parents talking about CLICO and when I got my first job there, my parents were happy."

Asked is he felt the criminal investigations by the police would put pressure on his former boss Duprey to return to Trinidad and Tobago to answer questions by the special team, comprising members of the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Fraud Squad, John said he was sure Duprey would have no problem cooperating with the police. "He is not a fugitive. It is not as if he absconded. He has always had a home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he often travelled back and forth," John said.

He added, "Nobody has asked him to come back, neither has he been subpoenaed, and no warrant is out for him."

According to John, if required Duprey will come home for the investigation.

Duprey's empire, which comprises some 65 companies in 32 countries, collapsed in January 2009, leaving behind a stream of disillusioned depositors, some of whom died before seeing a cent of their life's savings.

Government has since spent an estimated $20 billion in the bailout of CL Financial.

The commission of enquiry into CLICO was appointed in November 2010 by the Government, and Sir Anthony Colman was named as the lone commissioner. The enquiry is set to resume on December 3.

Additionally, the Central Bank conducted its own investigations and, as disclosed by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan on October 17 in the Senate, the Central Bank had spent $305.5 million in legal fees between October 2007 and July 2012 investigating the circumstances surrounding the collapse.

Duprey has so far, for health reasons, failed to appear before the commission.

Checks have, however, revealed this is not the first time criminal investigations commenced while a commission of enquiry was in session: case in point was the 2002 enquiry into the Piarco Airport Terminal construction headed by former chief justice Clinton Bernard.

Several people are currently before the courts, charged with a series of offences originating from that matter, including financiers of the United National Congress, Steve Ferguson and Ishwar Galbaransingh.

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