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POLICE PROBE CLICO EXECS

DPP warns media of contempt of court as criminal investigation begins

By Darren Bahaw News Editor

A criminal investigation against former CLICO executives and several corporate entities aligned to the collapsed insurance giant has begun.

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

The criminal probe, which began late last week, was announced last night in a press release issued by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Roger Gaspard.

The Express learned that the probe has been undertaken based on the content of a voluminous report submitted by the Central Bank to the Office of the DPP.

It was disclosed on October 17 by Attorney General Anand Ramlogan in the Senate that the Central Bank had spent $305.5 million in legal fees between October 2007 and July 2012, for investigations relating to the collapse of CL Financial Ltd group of companies, which involved an international team of forensic experts to track multi-million dollar transactions in several jurisdictions.

The Central Bank probe took place even as the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration appointed a Commission of Enquiry, chaired by Sir Anthony Colman, to probe the same issue in November 2010.

Colman has expressed his frustration during the enquiry on several occasions relating to the nonappearance of key witnesses who the Enquiry feels can help unravel the complex financial dealings which led to the collapse of the insurance giant and the subsequent close to $20 billion bailout by the State.

The terms of reference of the Commission of Enquiry include looking into the causes, reasons, and circumstances leading to the deterioration of the financial conditions at CLICO, CLICO Investment Bank Ltd, British American Insurance Company (Trinidad) Ltd and Caribbean Money Market Brokers and the Hindu Credit Union (HCU) which threatened the interest of depositors, investors, policyholders, creditors and shareholders and the circumstances, factors, causes and reasons leading to the January 2009 intervention by the Government for the rehabilitation of the companies.

The Central Bank, using its regulatory powers under Section 44 D of the Central Bank Act, hired Canadian forensic investigator Robert Lindquist to assist in unravelling the web of transactions between directors of CL Financial group of companies which led to the collapse of the multibillion dollar company.

Gaspard also issued a stern warning to media houses last night to cease publication of "anything which might jeopardise, hinder or otherwise prejudice the investigation or any possible proceedings which might result from it".

He warned that such infractions "may amount to a contempt of court".

Commenting on the DPP's warning last night, a senior attorney said it may be impossible for the media to comply with such a warning since the Commission of Enquiry was being held in public where the details of the conduct of former CL Financial directors were being revealed.

The Commission of Enquiry resumes on December 3, nine days before the January 2009 Memorandum of Agreement signed by the Government and CLICO executives expires.

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