Former executive chairman of insurance giant CL Financial, Lawrence Duprey, has said that as far as he was concerned, he has done nothing wrong.
Although the failure of the financial conglomerate seriously threatened to destabilise the economy and to date the rescue mission has cost taxpayers $21 billion, Duprey in his witness statement to the Commission of Enquiry which was filed on Monday described himself as "a hardworking and dedicated citizen who worked hard to create wealth for all and was instrumental in the creation of thousands of jobs".
Duprey also said he wished to refute the concept that he acted as if CLF was his "personal kingdom" and that it was a "one-man show' .
"At all times, I sought the best interests of the company so that the benefits derived would redound to the policyholders, shareholders and employees," he said.
In explaining the failure of the company, he said: "The global collapse coinciding with an ever impossible revamp of the regulatory framework and a refusal of government- owned entities to back the Group, after all the years of benefit that they had received from the interest income that the Group had generated, led to the need for some ultimate government support. I would have preferred ... if the intervention had not been so politically motivated and had been directed at protection for I believe, had that been the position we would have fared a great deal better."
The buck generally stops at the top but Duprey stated: "I was firmly of the view in January 2009 that the run on CIB and the resultant liquidity or cash-flow issues were much inspired by the decision of State- owned and run entities making decisions at or about the same time to withdraw rolling deposits which had been previously rolled over from maturity to maturity without question. The decision to seek the funds back came in reality out of the blue and caused severe problems."
Duprey said he has been severely hampered in the process of making the witness statement by several factors:
a) the lack of access to material;
b) he was now 78 years of age and did not have the detailed recollection that he used to of events and people he once did;
c)he now resides outside of Trinidad and Tobago "in the main as a consequence of the vilification I have been subject to and the fear of my family for their and my safety";
d) his health is not as robust as it used to be and he is not able to spend hours concentrating without becoming tired and forgetful. "This has been a life-changing and very shocking period for me since January 2009 and I have taken it all very badly," he said.
Duprey challenged the statement made by former group financial director, Michael Carballo, that he was the sole decision maker. He said decisions were made by a consensus of opinions between himself and the operational staff.
Duprey said the fees that he was paid were standard for consultancy fees paid to the chairman of other large conglomerates and were not excessive for the services he performed and the personal risks he undertook.
At the enquiry it was revealed during cross-examination of Carballo by CLICO attorney Neil Bisnath that Duprey's income totalled $90 million a year, which came out of the deposits of policyholders. In addition to his salary he was paid multi-million-dollar consultancy fees which involved CLF billing CLICO on a monthly basis for consultancy services. Some $5 million was paid to Dalco Capital Management, Duprey's management services company.
In his statement, Duprey offered this justification: "Some of the risks involved included becoming a target for threats, violence and kidnapping. As with all business people I became acutely aware of the increasing severity of the repercussions of these threats, as the victims of kidnapping faced the additional risk of being murdered, whether or not a ransom was paid. Travel to Poland and the Middle East particularly was at times high-risk. ... I cannot recall receiving the exact amount of money that it is said I received. Consulting fees paid to my management services company Dalco Capital Management, were treated erroneously as advances, as much of the funds were used for purposes other than fees," Duprey stated.
Without giving precise numbers, he added that a considerable amount of the funds paid to Dalco were channelled for purposes such as political donations to all parties; promoting youth in sport; social outreach projects and direct contributions to individuals who were extremely needy cases.
Duprey also denied that he surreptitiously sold CLICO Energy to Proman in February 2009 in breach of the MOU signed with the Ministry of Finance.
"Shortly after the MOU was signed the CLF board confirmed that Michael Carballo, Bhoe Tewarie, Rampersad Motilal and Gita Sakal would form a committee to approve and report to the board of directors all material transactions and corporate actions involving CLF. I was not part of this committee. The Committee was to deal directly with CBTT (Central Bank) and GORTT (Government) to make recommendations on issues pertaining to assets. I was of the opinion at the time that there had been a full disclosure of assets and in particular that Gita Sakal had intimated the sale of CLICO Energy to the Ministry of Finance," he said.
He said he did not receive one cent from the sale of CLICO Energy. "I do not know what CLICO did with their share of the proceeds of sale," he said. On what happened to the proceeds of the sale transferred to escrow account, he said he was not involved in the transaction and was out of the country.
The section of the enquiry dealing with the collapse of CL Financial is scheduled to resume tomorrow.
Duprey has featured prominently in the testimony of several witnesses who have appeared at the enquiry so far.
He is represented by Queen's Counsel Andrew Mitchell.
Duprey was originally scheduled to submit his witness statement on October 8 but was granted a two-week extension by Sir Anthony Colman, the enquiry's lone commissioner.
Duprey's submission of a witness statement however does not necessarily mean he will testify at the enquiry, a source stated.
Duprey currently lives in Florida in the United States .
—with reporting by Joel Julien