Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Duprey, Monteil may not have to testify

DPP's QC fails in bid for closed-door enquiry


talking it over: English QC Edward Jenkins, left, speaks to Martin Daly SC during yesterday's sitting of the Commission of Enquiry into the collapse of CL Financial and the HCU at Winshure Building, Richmond Street, Port of Spain. —Photo: ANISTO ALVES

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FORMER executive chairman of CL Financial Lawrence Duprey and CL Financial's former group financial director Andre Monteil do not have to testify in the commission of enquiry established to determine the cause for the conglomerate's collapse if they do not want to, Sir Anthony Colman ruled yesterday.

The decision on whether or not they will testify is solely up to Duprey and Monteil, said Colman.

Colman made the statement as British Queen's Counsel Edward Jenkins failed in his bid to have the enquiry discontinued in public on behalf of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard in light of ongoing criminal investigations.

However, moments after Colman cleared the way for the enquiry to continue, the process was faced with a hurdle as former president of Clico Investment Bank (CIB), Richard Trotman, expressed "disquiet" in testifying.

The tenth evidence hearing of the enquiry into the failure of CL Financial Ltd and three of its subsidiaries and the Hindu Credit Union (HCU) started at Winsure Building, Richmond Street, Port of Spain.

The session was scheduled to start with Jenkins making his submission to have the enquiry discontinued in public to prevent the possibility of the ongoing criminal prosecution being jeopardised.

However, at the time, Jenkins had not been formally admitted to the local bar.

With the assurance that he would ensure his admission to the local bar, Jenkins was allowed to address Colman.

Jenkins said a "major criminal investigation", which includes an international "money trail", was currently being undertaken.

He called on Colman to "protect the criminal investigation".

"Here as is abundantly apparent you are asked to enquire into the cause of the collapse of the CLICO group and the HCU and whether, in a nutshell, if anybody misled the public as to the true financial state of the companies and, in particular, as presently advised under paragraph 2.1 in your terms of reference, Sir, you would find that there are grounds for criminal proceedings against any person or entity and it is because of that, sir, that the Director (of Public Prosecutions) is particularly concerned," Jenkins said.

"I have grave concerns which I would now like to articulate in private to deal with that issue."

Jenkins expressed "anxiety" that matters in the enquiry have got into the public domain before time.

He cited the Express' publication of Duprey's witness statement last month and Monday's reporting of his (Jenkins's) arrival in the country as examples of this.

Jenkins successfully secured an audience with Colman and the other parties of the enquiry without the presence of the media and members of the public.

Television cameras were switched off and the media personnel and members of the public were asked to leave.

The closed-door session lasted close to two hours.

Former HCU president Harry Harnarine and his attorney, Farid Scoon, arrived while the closed-door session was in progress and entered the courtroom.

After a few minutes Harnarine was eventually put out of the public gallery.

Peter Permell, chairman of the Clico Policyholders Group, was seated inside the courtroom the entire time.

Around noon, the session was reopened to the public.

British Queen's Counsel Andrew Mitchell, Duprey's lead counsel, said the newspaper reporting of Gaspard's requests to have the enquiry discontinued in public cited a report by Canadian forensic investigator Bob Lindquist.

Mitchell said the Lindquist report "must remain confidential".

Before yesterday's attempt by Jenkins, Gaspard had written two letters to Colman to have the enquiry discontinued in public.

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan had also commented on the issue.

"I feel like a footballer in a three-sided football match," Mitchell said.

Apart from the criminal investigation, Mitchell said the enquiry also had the potential to prejudice the civil action currently before the court.

Mitchell said Duprey filed his defence in the civil action last week and it is currently under seal.

Colman ruled that the enquiry will continue as planned.

"At this stage, I shall not make any procedural adjustment to the way in which it (the enquiry) is conducted, nor at this stage shall I make any recommendation to the President nor anybody else as to whether the terms of reference should be amended," Colman said.

Colman said he would give his reasons for this decision in writing "at a later stage".

Jenkins asked Colman when the written explanation would be provided because Gaspard has to make a decision whether to take the matter further.

Gaspard can apply for a judicial review of Colman's decision.

Colman said in regard to Duprey and Monteil testifying, he would leave it open to them to rely on "the privilege against self-incrimination".

After an hour-long lunch break, the enquiry resumed with Trotman taking the witness stand.

Trotman, who is not legally represented in the matter, began his testimony in the ninth evidence hearing.

When Trotman entered the witness stand yesterday to be cross-examined, he said he was "very, very disquieted" by what has been taking place in relation to criminal investigation.

"My mind is in a pretty different frame without any disrespect to you," Trotman told Colman.

Trotman was scheduled to be cross-examined yesterday and today.

A compromise was reached that parties would provide their written cross-examination to Trotman by tomorrow.

When Trotman receives the questions he can decide what if anything he is willing to answer.

Up to press time it was not determined if the enquiry would take place today.

Henry Hamlet was originally scheduled to testify after Trotman tomorrow and attempts were being made to see if he could appear today.