CL Financial bailout – filling the gaps

This article sets out my ongoing search for all the details of all the payments made under the CL Financial bailout. That includes my recently-concluded litigation and my new requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Consent Order of 24th January 2018 required the Ministry of Finance to provide these details –

  1. Any unaudited financial statements of CL Financial Limited for the years 2008-2011 in the possession of the Ministry of Finance which were relied upon to prepare the affidavits of Minister Winston Dookeran filed on 3 April, 2012 in High Court proceedings CV 2011-01234, Percy Farrell and Others v Clico and others.
  2. Any list of the creditors of CL Financial existing at the date of the request in the possession of the Ministry of Finance, the names of the EFPA holders of Clico, the dates of the repayment of EFPA holders of Clico and the identities of those whose investments have been repaid.

The Ministry’s attorneys have now stated that they are unable to locate the specified financial statements and the list of CLF creditors has not been provided. My team will be responding to press for those details, in the public interest and in accordance with the Appeal Court’s Consent Order. Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – filling the gaps”

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CL Financial bailout – the NIF matter

CL Financial bailout – the NIF matter

The National Investment Holding Fund Co Ltd (NIF) was announced (p.18) on 25th June 2018 by the Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert, as an important part of the endgame of the CL Financial bailout. That announcement, which had been prefaced in earlier statements by Minister Imbert, was stated to be part of the process to recover the public money which had been spent on the CLF bailout.

The NIF is a new State-owned and controlled enterprise into which will be transferred just under $8.0 Billion in shares. About $6.0 Billion of those shares are CLF-owned – Republic Finance; WITCO; One Caribbean Media and Angostura – with a further $2.025 Billion of the State’s shares in Trinidad Generation Unlimited making up the balance. Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – the NIF matter”

Property Matters – Sandals MoU? Part three

Sandals/Beaches Tobago Illustrative Master Plan

The previous article delved into the published information on the three existing State-owned hotels and juxtaposed that with the proposals for a Tobago Sandals. Apart from the unsatisfactory position with the State’s existing hotel investments and the reluctance to give details, I also updated readers on the missing MoU for the Tobago Sandals project.

My dismal readings were based on the very limited publicly-available information, nothing else. I did not refer to any rumours or ‘inside information‘, my work is all based on the published record. The PM and his colleagues surely have ready access to a better quality and quantity of information than the public. That being the case, it begs the question as to what is really happening here.

If indeed, the Sandals project has significant upsides and benefits, those ought to have been estimated and shared by now. If the existing State-owned hotels are doing well, why aren’t the management agreements or accounts published? If those hotels are doing poorly, why are we persisting with that same model? Continue reading “Property Matters – Sandals MoU? Part three”

Property Matters – Sandals MoU? Part two

Sandals MOU_ (3)

The previous article updated readers on my attempts to obtain the Sandals Memorandum of Understanding for the proposed high-end, large-scale resort development in Tobago. That proposed development is said to be a significant part of our country’s diversification efforts so it requires our sober attention if we are to understand what is at stake.

The model for this project is one in which the State either pays for or guarantees the financing of the new resort. The State would pay for the cost of design, financing, construction, fitting and furnishing of the new resort, all to the standards set by Sandals. The completed resort will then be operated by Sandals under a management agreement. T&T is unique in the Caribbean in that our largest hotels were funded by Public Money with the operators working via Management Agreements.

That is the model which has been used thus far in our State-owned hotels. That fact has been cited several times by the PM, quite likely to offer a degree of comfort to those who are unsure about this project. After all, we have done this model before, so what could be the harm if we go along the same road once more?

That approach to a major investment of this type does not offer me any comfort at all. Since September 2016 I have been pursuing a detailed research program into the State-owned hotels, with my colleagues from Disclosure Today and we have been solidly resisted. In my view, we do not have enough information about the existing State-owned hotels – Trinidad Hilton (1962); Magdalena Grand (originally Tobago Hilton, opened in 2000) and Hyatt Regency (2008) – to be confident about this approach. Continue reading “Property Matters – Sandals MoU? Part two”

Property Matters – Sandals MoU?

Adam Stewart, CEO Sandals

This is a continuation of my 8 March 2018 article on the Sandals MoU. That MoU was declared as no secret by our PM to the Parliament on 12 October 2017 and that was confirmed by the then CEO of the Sandals group, Adam Stewart, as reported on 27 February 2018 in the T&T press.

My 27 February 2018 request for that MoU under the Freedom of Information Act (embedded below) was therefore made against that background of both parties’ declaration that there was no secret. The Office of the Prime Minister responded on 22 March 2018 to refuse my request, citing that the MoU contained a confidentiality clause which prevented its disclosure at this time. I have since written to the OPM to request a reply in conformity with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act – I am still awaiting a reply to that letter.

I have now written to Mr Adam Stewart of Sandals Resorts International to request from him a copy of the MoU. (See below)

This is a proposal of high public importance as it is being advanced as an important part of our country’s diversification strategy, so the correspondence is set out in this article.

From: Afra Raymond
Date: Fri, Jun 15, 2018 at 3:41 PM
Subject: Request for Memorandum of Understanding with Sandals Resorts
To: Adam Stewart

Dear Mr Stewart,

I am writing to request a copy of the signed Memorandum of Understanding between Sandals Resorts International and the Government of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago – it was recently reported that this MoU was signed on 10th October 2017.

There is no doubt that the proposed 750-room Sandals/Beaches Resort for Tobago will be a large-scale, high-impact development, so there an understandable public interest in those proposals. I was therefore greatly encouraged by your emphatic statements that there is no secrecy in relation to the business arrangement or the MoU and that you refuted any secret deals – as reported in the Trinidad & Tobago press on 27th February 2018.

I was therefore astonished that the Office of the Prime Minister replied on 22nd March 2018 to my request for that MoU by citing a confidentiality clause to refuse its disclosure at this time. I wrote to the OPM on 11th April 2018 requesting a clarification and their reply is still awaited. In the interim, I am requesting from you a copy of the MoU in the public interest of transparency in this large-scale development proposal.

For your information, my earlier article on the Sandals MoU was published in the Express Business on 8th March 2018 and can be accessed here. The related correspondence is attached for ease of reference.

Please let me have your reply in due course.

Afra Raymond

afraraymond.net