On Wednesday 24th January 2018 we settled the Consent Order in the Appeal Court, in this long-running legal battle between the Ministry of Finance & The Economy and I. That Consent Order will allow the public much better insight into the CL Financial bailout. The Ministry of Finance & The Economy has now agreed to provide two of the three items I requested in 2012 under the Freedom of Information Act –
- 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.
- 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.
We agreed to delete Paragraph 2 of the Order of Justice Boodoosingh, which referred to the presentation made to Independent Senators in September 2011.
The Ministry is to pay Seventy Percent (70%) of my High Court costs to be assessed in default of agreement and it was also agreed that there would be no order as to costs in respect of the appeal.
The Appeal Court panel comprised Justices of Appeal Mendonca, Jamadar and Rajkumar.
I am thanking my attorneys, Gilbert Peterson SC and Kingsley Walesby, for their diligence and skill in seeking the Public Interest in this important matter. I am also thanking my friends and media colleagues who supported this campaign for proper standards of accountability, transparency and good governance in our country.
We could not have come this far without the assistance of other campaigners such as the T&T Transparency Institute, Disclosure Today, the Constitution Reform Forum and of course, TedX POS and The Big Black Box…Special appreciation goes to those organisations…
Finally, of course, I thank the Minister of Finance & The Economy and his Cabinet colleagues who decided to support this long-standing call for those details to be published. It is a case of better late than never, so my thanks are sincere ones. We now need to maintain our vigilance as we advance the standards of accountability, transparency and good governance in our country.
That was the Press Release I made at the end of these protracted legal proceedings.
Timeline of this legal action
- 8 May 2012 — Request made under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) to the Ministry of Finance & The Economy;
- 29 March 2013 — Lawsuit filed to challenge the refusal of the Ministry to provide the requested information. The Ministry’s reason for refusing was that CL Financial is a private company and not a ‘public authority‘, to which the FoIA is limited;
- 22 July 2015 — High Court ruled in favour of my original Request for Information and ordered publication of the requested details;
- 10 August 2015 — The Ministry appealed the High Court ruling, citing new reasons not advanced in the earlier case;
- 24 January 2018 — At our first hearing, the Ministry resiled from its previous positions and only objected to one of the three items I requested. We agreed the terms of a Consent Order and the legal matter ended.
The bailout started in January 2009 — that is the official date at least — so it is almost nine years in progress. It is impossible to say just what caused the Ministry of Finance & The Economy to reverse its position, but at last there will be a long-overdue publication of the details of just who got paid.
Certainly, with the effluxion of those 8+ years, certain legal limitations would have accrued, such that it may well be impossible to proceed against certain persons.
On 8th August 2017, the Appeal Court ruled in favour of the State’s application to appoint Provisional Liquidators to CL Financial. As required by that ruling, the first 3-monthly Report of the Liquidator is due to be filed in the High Court at the end of January 2018. That Liquidator’s Report would comprise detailed accounts of the sort which would have negated the Ministry’s earlier objections to publishing the accounts for the CL Financial group.
It will be fascinating to examine the details when they are submitted, which I expect within the next fortnight. We will be able to see who were the real beneficiaries of this immense payout of Public Money.
Of course, the terms of the Consent Order do allow a certain latitude, so it is important to remain vigilant in this endgame. Apart from the two parties to this concluded legal battle, the fact is that most of the beneficiaries I interacted with never wanted their identities disclosed. I would be surprised if those wealthy and influential persons did not attempt to thwart the impending publication.
The final point is that the item for which I withdrew my request was the presentation made to Independent Senators in September 2011 by the then Minister of Finance & The Economy, Winston Dookeran. The fight for that item would have raised certain fascinating issues between the Freedom of Information Act and the Constitution, which at S.55 protects Parliamentarians and their proceedings from intrusion by the Courts. Those issues are sure to arise again, but both sides left them aside in reaching this agreement.
Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – the consent order”