Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Gaspard writes Colman

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard has written to Sir Anthony Colman, the lone commissioner at the Commission of Enquiry into the collapse of CLICO, expressing concern about how the public enquiry could impact on the criminal investigation by the police.

Last Thursday, Gaspard issued a release stating that a criminal investigation against former CLICO executives and several corporate entities aligned to the collapsed insurance giant had begun.

The probe is being conducted by a special team of police officers, comprising members of the Anti-Corruption Investigation Bureau and the Fraud Squad.

On that same day, Gaspard wrote to Colman informing him that a "full criminal investigation had commenced into the conduct of individuals and corporate entities involved in the collapse of CLICO and related companies".

"As there is now a criminal investigation, I am duty-bound to do what I can to prevent anything which may adversely affect the investigation and any potential criminal trial," Gaspard wrote in the letter to Colman which was obtained by the Sunday Express.

"I am particularly concerned that an otherwise credible prosecution might be stopped by the court on the grounds that a defendant's right to a fair trial had been fatally compromised by the publicity attendant upon your enquiry. As such, I shall be issuing a press release warning the media against the publication of any material which may jeopardise the police investigation and any potential criminal proceedings," he ended.

The 19-month-old Commission of Enquiry into the collapse of CLICO and related companies, as well as the Hindu Credit Union, is a public enquiry and quite often earns newspaper headlines during the evidence hearings.

Attorneys have expressed concern about the release of certain documents at a public enquiry and the commission itself has had to adhere to a confidentiality protocol which was put together by the commission and the parties related to it.

There have been startling revelations at the commission thus far—million-dollar salaries paid to executives; companies created by executives and hiving off millions in contracts; and blatant breaches in governance—all at the expense of policyholders.

The on-going commission is expected to conclude in May 2013.

A senior Government official has suggested that Gaspard would like the Enquiry to end.

Gaspard did not respond to this. Instead, he told the Sunday Express that when it comes to civil proceedings "no one would be held criminally liable".

"Given the seriousness of the alleged wrong doing, this is a matter which merits a criminal investigation and depending on the outcome of the investigation the prospect of a criminal sanction. Civil proceedings wouldn't fully address the injuries suffered by the shareholders and the state," he said.

The Government official told the Sunday Express that the Government wouldn't end the enquiry.

"If the Government stops it, they will have too many questions to answer. It is really up to the DPP to move his case forward until Colman produces his report," the official said.

The Central Bank has already mounted and instituted civil proceedings against two former CL Financial executives—former chairman Lawrence Duprey and former Group finance head, Andre Monteil.

The Sunday Express understands that case is proceeding—already Monteil has filed a statement in court, while Duprey is expected to file his statement in court by month-end.

Questioned on whether the civil case, which is premised on a "fraud against the public", would infringe on the criminal case being pursued, the official said there were "no conflicts of interest".

"The Central Bank, the DPP and the Government are all independent institutions but they are working toward one goal in different directions, but they will all converge in bringing these men to justice. The question arises how you manage that convergence and what is public information and what is not," the official said.

The Sunday Express understands that the Central Bank has written to the DPP to seek permission to release the findings of forensic investigator Bob Lindquist into CLICO. However, the DPP has denied that request on the ground that the documents were subject to "public immunity".

The Sunday Express learnt that the Central Bank has faced several challenges with Linquist's forensic work.

"The work was not admissible in court and Lindquist would not testify in a court of law. So the work had to be-done by a forensic team who would testify in court," an official said.

The company hired to re-do the forensic work was FTI Consulting.

The Sunday Express also learnt that the Central Bank is looking into the feasibility of going after former directors of Clico Investment Bank (CIB).

Following the January 2009 Memorandum of Understanding between the Government and CL Financial, CIB's licence was revoked and it is now under liquidation.

The Sunday Express was informed that the Companies Act enables the Central Bank to go after the directors for breaches of fiduciary duties.

Meantime, the Commission of Enquiry is set to restart on December 3 with former Central Bank Governor Ewart Williams and Inspector of Financial Institutions Carl Hiralal expected to take the witness stand.