CL Financial bailout – the Information War

 

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This Season is one of reflection and re-dedication for me, with the two-month transition from Emancipation Day on 1 August to Independence on the 31 August, then onto Republic Day on 24 September. I always spend this spell in some sober reflection, in between the life. It seems to me that the very sequence of events and the consequent holidays in the season imbue it with an inner meaning in terms of a national transition to some kind of depth and purpose. Emancipation to Independence to Republican status…this is my Season of Reflection, maybe that is just sentimental of me, but let us see.

The most recent of my articles on ‘filling the gaps in the CL Financial bailout were almost entirely devoted to publishing my exchanges with the Ministry of Finance. At the start of my Season of Reflection, it is time I go beyond reposting the items – the Thing – to essay on the Meaning of the Thing. Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – the Information War”

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CL Financial bailout – filling the gaps part three

This was published on Emancipation Day 2018, as we start the Season of Reflection. Sober reflections as one tries to close the gaps.

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Vishnu Dhanpaul, PS, Ministry of Finanace

This summarises the reply of Ministry of Finance PS Dhanpaul on 14th June 2018, to my original request of 24th April 2018. Dhanpaul wrote that the Ministry –

  • had no details of legal fees as the lawyers were not retained by them;
  • had no CLF audited accounts from 2008 to date, but management accounts for 2015, 2016 and 2017 were sent;
  • denied my request for the presentation made to Independent Senators in September 2011 on the grounds that since we had agreed to omit that item from the Consent Order my request was ‘an abuse of the process of the court‘. In any case the file could not be located.;
  • Legal and other advice was being obtained on the outstanding items;
  • Further letters were to be sent via hard-copy, other formats would be ignored.

The full letter from PS Vishnu Dhanpaul is here.

This is my reply

Email
From – Afra Raymond
To – Vishnu Dhanpaul
Date – Fri, Jun 22, 2018 at 7:42 PM

Hello PS Dhanpaul,

I have carefully considered your reply of 14th June 2018, the overall tone and content of which is perturbing, given the background in this matter.

My reply is itemised here for ease of reference –

  • The group accounts for CL Financial – Thank you for providing the management accounts of CL Financial Limited as at December 31st 2015, December 31st 2016 and April 30th 2017. Of course the 2015 accounts show balances for 2014, so what is the document from which those 2014 numbers were derived? My original request was for ‘…audited accounts of CL Financial Limited…to include interim, preliminary, draft, unaudited or management accounts…‘. Those broad request terms were submitted precisely to allow for the related matters of opening balances and source documents to be accommodated. In light of that, please provide the set of accounts from which the 2014 balances were taken, whatever the permutations in which those might appear. Also, please provide the available accounts for the outstanding years – 2008 to 2014 – whether those be interim, preliminary, draft, unaudited or management accounts;
  • Legal Fees – Please reply to indicate which Ministry or State Agency had responsibility for retaining and paying the attorneys who represented the Ministry of Finance in these two court case – I find your answer to be verging on the obtuse;
  • Presentation to Independent Senators made in September 2011 – The consent order of 24th January 2018 in no way affects that this document is disclosable – indeed, the Ministry’s 22nd January 2018 Supplemental Submission set out a clear position, which accepted that there are no applicable exemptions in the FoIA to prevent publication of the presentation made to Independent Senators in September 2011. Its twelfth paragraph states – “…As to the Order in relation to Request No. 2 the Appellant’s position is that it accepts that there is no exemption on which the Appellant can rely…” For your information, a copy of that document is hyperlinked above for ease of reference. In the circumstances, the Ministry’s position is risible in that even if one accepts its position, which I do not, any other applicant would be entitled to obtain the document without that defence being available. In any case, a presentation of that importance would have been the subject of considerable email traffic, which means that there would have been drafts and attachments exchanged between the Ministry and its advisers – those email records need to be examined for those documents. Your suggestions as to an abuse of process are quite misplaced and somewhat ironic, given my next point;
  • The outstanding items – The issue of the details of the costs of the CL Financial bailout was litigated since March 2013, with the Ministry having lost at the High Court in July 2015 and conceded defeat at the Appeal Court in January 2018. What could possibly be your rationale for seeking further legal and other advice on these requests? This series of requests for information is being made to the same Public Authority in respect of the same bailout process, the only material difference being that the information being requested now was not previously requested. This series of requests is being made, in the public interest, to obtain the outstanding details of exactly how this bailout was funded. By way of illustration and for the benefit of other readers, take the case of a request for information under the FoIA which sought certain details of applicants for certain state training with names from A-F. In that example if the application was refused, then became the subject of judicial review, then the High Court ruled in favour of the publication and the State conceded its case at Appeal Court level, how then could the State refuse a subsequent application for the same details of applicants for the same training program with names G-Z? It is my considered view that for a Public Authority to be seeking further legal and other advice in such a situation would be tantamount to an abuse of process. I am stating that for the benefit of any other readers who might be unclear as to the important principle at stake in this matter. I have no doubt that you fully understand the issues as stated. Quite apart from the commitment of scarce public resources to obtain further advice on this matter, please note that the Ministry is now beyond the 30-day deadline specified at S.15 of the Act to indicate whether it is refusing or approving my requests;
  • Communication – I reject your proposals as to our future communications. At this time, the vast majority of my communications are via email, possibly 95% – I have little doubt that the ratio is any different at the PS level of our public service. In these circumstances, what could possibly be your rationale for proposing the hard-copy mode for our further communication? In any case, all the Ministry’s letters in this current exchange are being delivered to my office, notwithstanding the typed address being my home.

I await your early reply so that this long-outstanding matter can be properly concluded, in the public interest and without any further delay. For the avoidance of doubt, please do not take this correspondence as in any way representing my acceptance of your delay, now well outside the time-limit stipulated in the Freedom of Information Act. All my rights are hereby reserved.

Yours sincerely,

Afra Raymond

CL Financial bailout – filling the gaps, part two

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This article provides more details of the games being played in this Information War. It seems that the concealment of the details of the CL Financial bailout is of high importance.

First item is this acknowledgment from the PS in the Ministry of Finance which would be funny, if this entire matter were not so very serious –

Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – filling the gaps, part two”

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”

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”

CL Financial bailout – the Integrity Query

ic-logoYet another worrying aspect of the CL Financial (CLF) bailout fiasco is the role of the Integrity Commission (IC) in these turbid dealings. I am referring to the apparent failure or refusal of The Commission to carry out its duties in relation to CLF as required by the Integrity in Public Life Act (IPLA).

I first raised the prospect that CLF might well be under the IC’s oversight on 28th May 2009, in an article entitled – Judgment Time – Moral Hazard part 3. I have been pursuing that concern steadily since September 2012 and yet the position of the IC is no clearer. On 9th September 2015, I again put the question – Is the integrity Commission being willfully blind towards CL Financial? Indeed, in my March 28th 2018 interview with the Trinidad Express, I stated, in relation to the governance aspects unearthed by my campaign –

“…What is more, our Integrity Commission also seems to have lost its way in failing to recognise that CL Financial is a company under State control. As a result, the Commission has sought no Directors’ declarations from the largest of the State controlled companies. I tell you…”

Given that these are very serious allegations to level against one of our nation’s Public Institutions, I will give the supporting details.
Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – the Integrity Query”

CL Financial bailout – the EFPA details part two

CL Financial bailout – the EFPA details part two

One of the more interesting issues emerging from these EFPA details is the extent to which companies invested in what was approved as an individual investment instrument.

In the previous article, I detailed the significant investments made by State Enterprises, which prompted questions on the governance arrangements applicable to those companies. We know that companies made the investments in the names of individuals, that much was clear from the JSC’s 5th June 2015 Report on the EMBD. Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – the EFPA details part two”