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Permell: Probe into ex-CLICO execs long overdue

By Joel Julien joel.julien@trinidadexpress.com

LONG overdue, but better later than never.

This was how Peter Permell, chairman of the CLICO Policyholders Group, yesterday responded to claims that Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard has launched a criminal investigation against former CLICO executives and several corporate entities aligned to the collapsed insurance giant.

The investigation, which is being conducted by a special team of police officers comprising members of the Anti-Corruption Investigations Bureau and the Fraud Squad, began last week, a release from Gaspard stated on Thursday.

The Express has learnt the probe is being undertaken based on the content of a voluminous report submitted by the Central Bank to the Office of the DPP.

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 multi-billion-dollar company.

"We are persuaded that it is certainly long overdue, in light of the startling revelations and mountains of evidence adduced to date, at the ongoing Sir Anthony Coleman commission of enquiry. Nonetheless, we take solace in the old truism, 'better late than never'," Permell stated yesterday.

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.

In his release on Thursday, Gaspard also issued a stern warning to media houses 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 such infractions "may amount to a contempt of court".

Permell said because of this warning by Gaspard, he did not wish to comment further on the matter.

"I wish to state from the onset, given the stern warning and public caution of the DPP, and rightfully so, it would be entirely inappropriate for the me as chairman of the Clico Policyholders Group to comment, at this time, on any specific matter relative to persons and more particularly executives associated with the CLICO collapse, except to say that news of a criminal investigation is welcomed, but comes as no great surprise to us," Permell stated.

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