Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Early end to enquiry

Witnesses fail to appear


testimony: Senior CLICO manager Henry Hamlet at yesterday's sitting of the Commission of Enquiry into the collapse of CL Financial and the Hindu Credit Union at Winshure Building, Richmond Street, Port of Spain. —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

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THE tenth evidence hearing of the commission of enquiry into the collapse of CL Financial and the Hindu Credit Union (HCU) was brought to an abrupt end yesterday, four days earlier than expected, after several witnesses failed to appear.

The session, which was scheduled to last 14 days, was originally scheduled to end on Friday.

However, after several witnesses failed to appear for various reasons the enquiry was forced to end four days earlier than expected.

On the first day of this session, last Monday, British Queen's Counsel Edward Jenkins appeared before Sir Anthony Colman on behalf of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard in an attempt to have the enquiry discontinued in public in light of ongoing criminal investigations.

Jenkins failed in his attempt.

It was the third unsuccessful bid by the DPP in the past few weeks to have the enquiry amended in an effort to protect the ongoing criminal investigation.

The DPP had previously written to Colman calling on him to reconsider his decision to continue the enquiry in public.

The DPP has also written to the Attorney General Anand Ramlogan seeking to have him advise the President George Maxwell Richards to suspend the Inquiry or vary its terms of reference.

The Attorney General had also refused this request.

But the lack of participation by witnesses has done what the DPP had unsuccessfully attempted to do.

The enquiry was brought to a grinding halt around 4 p.m. yesterday, 30 minutes and four days earlier than anticipated.

The day began with Inspector of Financial Institutions Carl Hiralal concluding a two-day stay in the witness box.

Following Hiralal, Henry Hamlet a manager at CLICO testified.

Kern Williams of the Clico Policyholders Group (CPG) was scheduled to be the last of three witnesses expected to testify yesterday.

However difficulties with the power point presentation planned by Williams caused the testimony not to begin yesterday.

Williams, along with attorneys for the CPG, Lynette Seebaran-Suite and Terrence Bharath, will all be out of the country for varying reasons from today.

Colman ruled that Williams will testify in the next session with "no priority of timing or days".

After settling the CPG issue, Colman attempted to adjourn the enquiry to today.

COLMAN: I now rise

CARTER: Sir, before you rise, the question now is what do we do with the rest of this session because we have lost a number of witnesses who were earmarked to testify.

On the same day that Jenkins unsuccessfully attempted to have the enquiry discontinued in public, former Clico Investment Bank (CIB) president Richard Trotman expressed his discomfort in testifying at the enquiry anymore.

"Mr Trotman was due to give evidence for two and half days and we know what happened to him. We were able to reschedule and deal with all the Central Bank witnesses who gave evidence more or less exactly according to the time table," Carter said.

Carter said the next scheduled witness was expected to Norton Jack, the General Counsel for the Trinidad and Tobago Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

"Very shortly before this session began Mr Jack sent a letter to the commission and pointed out that counsel who had hitherto represented him and had prepared a lengthy, detailed and very helpful witness statement was no longer acting for him and he was bereft of legal representation which is a bit bizarre bearing the organisation of which he is a representative and his request deferred evidence until a later day and so we lost as a result of that the better part of more than a day," Carter said.

General Manager of First Citizens Investment Services (FCIS), Jason Julien, was expected to testify after Jack.

First Citizens acquired Caribbean Money Market Brokers (CMMB) following the 2009 bail out of CL Financial and re-branded it FCIS.

Carter said Julien's evidence is not likely to be controversial but he is out of the "jurisdiction" and cannot attend the enquiry.

COLMAN: By accident or design?

CARTER: I am going to conclude at this stage in favour of the former but I do not know. So as a result of this information and what is happening to us now it means that we have no further witnesses earmarked for this session.

Colman said the situation is "not conducive to efficient running of the enquiry at all".

"If the witnesses do not show up it is a very unsatisfactory position," he said.

Carter agreed.

"I am afraid we are compromised, I am afraid there is nothing we can do. We formed this enquiry with enough evidence to take us through to Friday and of course the ensuing sessions are going to be on the face of intense sessions because we are moving on to the Ministry of Finance," Carter said.

Colman apologised to counsel.