WHEN Charles Mitchell held the post of Commissioner of Cooperative Development (CCD), he conducted himself as a "seasoned criminal," former president of the Hindu Credit Union (HCU) Harry Harnarine said yesterday.
If Mitchell had acted more appropriately, the financial difficulties facing the HCU could have been properly dealt with, Harnarine said.
Harnarine made the claims yesterday as he took the witness stand, at the Commission of Enquiry into the collapse of CL Financial and HCU, being held at the Winsure Building, Richmond Street, Port of Spain, for the second successive day.
Mitchell, a former special reserve police officer, held the portfolio of commissioner when the HCU wound up in 2008.
When Mitchell testified at the enquiry in May he claimed Harnarine threatened to kill him.
Harnarine yesterday denied that claim during cross-examination by Senior Counsel Reginald Armour, legal representative for the Commissioner of Cooperative Development.
HARNARINE: I totally disagree with that and I would say that Mr Mitchell is the one that always conducted the affairs of his office in the manner of that of a criminal.
ARMOUR: Mr Harnarine I would ask you to be guarded in the language that you use. No one is accusing anyone of being a criminal before this commission and I would urge you not to use that language.
HARNARINE: And I will stick to my position that the attitude of the commissioner and the way he treated myself all times and even the members at the convention centre was that of a seasoned criminal. Always threatening to shoot.
ARMOUR: Let us leave it at that Mr Harnarine.
Harnarine said despite what he thought of Mitchell he always gave him the "respect and honour" his office deserved.
"There is no evidence in the tenure of my office that I ever disrespected Mr Mitchell. In fact I was abused, I was chased out of his office," Harnarine said.
Harnarine said if Mitchell conducted himself differently the financial difficulties that lead to the HCU's eventual collapse could have been resolved.
"Why was it that the Governor of the Central Bank held our hands together, walked with us, agreed with us, made the companies the way we wanted them to be in terms of meeting the statutory requirements, in terms of answering all his queries, in terms of having audits on the company and so on. And why was it at the level of the Commissioner of Cooperatives we did not have the same type of management system, the same type of guidance and working together? In fact we would not have wasted money to go to court and do all that we were doing...today the investors would have had assets, the shareholders would have had the remaining part of the credit union deposits and we would have resolved the problem," Harnarine said.
While Harnarine was critical of the way Mitchell operated as Commission of Cooperative Development he yesterday lauded former commissioner Keith Maharaj for being "mature" and having a "well-regulated relationship" with the HCU.
Harnarine said he had "admiration" for the way Maharaj discharged his functions.
Harnarine claimed Mitchell colluded with Ernst and Young partner Maria Daniel and former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance Vishnu Dhanpaul, to destroy the HCU.
Daniel lead a team from Ernst and Young to do an enquiry on HCU in 2008.
Harnarine described Daniel as "polluted, tainted and sullied" and said she should have been replaced with "someone more balanced".
Armour described Harnarine's conspiracy theory as "fanciful fiction".
Questioned by Ernst and Young attorney Stuart Young about why he had not made these "revelations" before, Harnarine said, "Even in the holy books some important things are left out."
Harnarine is scheduled to return to the witness stand today to be cross-examined by Senior Counsel the lead counsel for the Ministry of Finance. He is also expected to tender more documents.