Of course that line of reasoning is yet another emerging threat to our country’s Integrity Framework, so our reply challenges the validity of this assertion.
At our hearing on 1 October, Justice Boodoosingh ordered me to formally notify CL Financial and we have done that, so at our hearing earlier today, CL Financial were represented by a team led by Stephen Singh and various dates were set, with our next hearing on 27 February 2014. Of course that is the very Carnival week, so stay tuned. I expect there will be significant other developments well before that.
I wonder if is Bobol?
What dey doing with Taxpayer’s Money at all!?
I wonder if is Bobol?
What dey doing with Taxpayer’s Money at all!?
—Opening stanza of ‘The Treasury Scandal’ by Atilla the Hun (1937)
I took this title from the late 1930’s kaiso by the great Atilla the Hun (Raymond Quevado) on the scandal of some $200,000 missing from T&T’s Treasury. His outrage was rooted in the fact that the story came-out in bits and pieces and of course, none of the ‘Big-Boys’ was ever jailed, or even charged for that theft. That was a massive amount of money in the 1930s – at that time a good Woodbrook house cost about $6,000 – so that could give you an idea. Atilla was lamenting the lack of accountability and transparency in how Public Money was being managed. The ‘Treasury Scandal’ was a true episode from the bad-old-colonial-days of the 1930s, but of course we have progressed a great deal since then, having achieved Independence, Republican status and universal education.
The problem is that despite the obvious movement forward, we are witness to yet another ‘Treasury Scandal’. I am referring to the CL Financial bailout, announced in January 2009 and still ongoing at an anticipated cost of $24Bn – according to paras 21 and 22 of the 3 April 2012 affidavit of then Finance Minister, Winston Dookeran.
It is vital to look back before we go forward. In 2008 and 2009, the Indo-Trinbago Equality Council (ITEC) campaigned strongly on the issue of the Secret Scholarship Scandal’. The suspicion was that there was a secret scholarship fund operated by the State without any transparency and ITEC used its Parliamentary representatives and the Freedom of Information Act to force the Patrick Manning-led PNM administration to publish the details they had been trying to conceal.
The published details included the names of those who benefited from the funds as well as the amounts, dates of payments and details of the courses of study to be pursued. Some of the more controversial issues to emerge from the publication of those scholarship details were –
The PNM administration was never able to demonstrate how those scholarships had been advertised, or for that matter, any objective process used to choose from the applicants;
Unlike other Scholarship arrangements, there was no requirement for these scholarship winners to do any kind of national service;
A number of people who were reported to have received money, went public to say they had never even applied for, far less received, scholarships. The question arising was ‘Where did that money really go?’;
A total of $46M of Public Money was paid during the 5 year period under examination. The President of ITEC at that time was Devant Maharaj and its leading attorney was Anand Ramlogan, both of whom now serve in the Cabinet.
I fully supported ITEC in that use of the Freedom of Information Act to force publication of important information on the use of Public Money, which is the property of every citizen.
In my view the failure and or refusal to account for the colossal and unprecedented expense of the CL Financial bailout is indicative of a ‘Quiet Coup‘ against our Republic. I am deliberately borrowing Simon Johnson’s potent phrase, used to describe the coup of Financial Capital against the USA published in a fascinating and essential article from The Atlantic. The fact that two successive administrations have remained bound to these arrangements and the low priority given to transparency and accountability in this matter all speak to the potency of the plotters.
“Emerging-market governments and their private-sector allies commonly form a tight-knit—and, most of the time, genteel—oligarchy, running the country rather like a profit-seeking company in which they are the controlling shareholders… As masters of their mini-universe, these people make some investments that clearly benefit the broader economy, but they also start making bigger and riskier bets. They reckon—correctly, in most cases—that their political connections will allow them to push onto the government any substantial problems that arise.”
—Simon Johnson. “The Quiet Coup” in The Atlantic. 2009.
The CL Financial group was able to use its considerable political clout and financial footprint to achieve a binding agreement that our Treasury would be used to pay its debts. Absolutely unprecedented and all negotiated in less than three weeks, we are told. That is the official version of this astonishing story.
Given the likely existence of a ‘Code of Silence’ in this tangled affair, I have been making use of the Freedom of Information Act in my campaign for transparency and accountability in the CL Financial bailout.
If we are ever to start to untangle this web of deceit and betrayal, we must get details of who got their money out, how much, on what terms and when. On 8 May 2012, I applied to the Ministry of Finance via the FoIA – from which the Central Bank is exempt – to request this information –
Accounts – The audited accounts for the CLF group or whatever figures the Minister is relying on;
The briefing given to the Independent Senators in September 2011 before debate of the two supplementary bailout Bills;
Details of the creditors, especially EFPA holders, to see who got what money;
Whether the Minister required CLF’s Directors to comply with the Integrity in Public Life Act.
The Ministry replied on 14 August to say that the information requested is likely to be exempt and I am now challenging them in Court.
If it is right and proper to use the FoIA to force publication of the details of a Secret Scholarship Scheme of some $46M over 5 years, why is it acceptable to conceal the details of some $24Bn in Public Money? That is over 521 times more Public Money being spent in secret…yes, $24Bn is over 521 times more money than $46M.
For all we know, some of the people on the Ministry’s list of persons who have been paid could be the same ones protesting via the various Policyholders’ Groups.
Maharaj said yesterday that he rejected Williams’ claim thatthen prime minister Patrick Manning’s handwritten note on one of the applications for the matter to be handled quietly was ministry protocol, as was claimed by Yuille-Williams. “It seems as if this was the overriding motto for the disbursement of these funds,” Maharaj added. “This was a blatant attempt to hide the facts from the glare of public scrutiny.”
At this time the Ministry of Finance is publicising the end of the CL Financial bailout so that all the Public Money spent on this can be repaid and there are various official reports of how this is to be achieved. At the very same moment, the said Finance Ministry has engaged a high-powered and expensive legal team, headed by Russell Martineau SC, to oppose my attempts to have the basic information published.
The case is a critical challenge to the detrimental notion that $24Bn of Public Money can be spent without Accountability or Transparency. That notion does violence to any healthy conception of the Public Interest, so I expect this contest to be a sharp one.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand…” Frederick Douglass…Freedom Fighter and esteemed ancestor…
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant!” Former US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis…
What is being pursued here is our right as citizens of a modern republic to the details of these huge expenditures of Public Money – the CL Financial bailout is costing some $24Bn, about $3.5Bn USD! – and the background to how critical legislative support is obtained. It is my view that S.34 was not the first time and that the spectre of ‘regulatory capture’, which underlines much of the discourse around the Great Depression 2, is in fact founded on a sinister degree of ‘legislative capture’.
Having had a series of ‘cat and mouse’ exchanges with the Ministry of Finance since my Freedom of Information Act application made on 11 May 2012, this is my pre-action protocol letter sent to them by my attorney on Thursday 7 March, seeking their proper reply in 7 days…that time expires at midnight today, Wednesday 13 March, so stay tuned, because we are going to the High Court after that…
This downloadable document is the 3rd April 2012 affidavit of then Minister of Finance Winston Dookeran, filed as the key evidence in the government’s case in reply to the High Court challenge mounted by Percy Farrell on behalf of a group of CLICO policyholders.
The most interesting ones are the paragraphs in which Dookeran states –
Para 16 at which CLICO is identified as holding 53.6% of the insurance industry’s total liabilities in T&T. That is a clear statement as to the extent to which this company was allowed to become literally ‘too big to fail’ and it also seems to me to comprise grounds for preventing this kind of over-concentration of risk to ever emerge again.
Para 21 which details some $12Bn of public money already spent on this massive bailout.
Para 22 which estimates that a further $12Bn of public money is needed to meet the creditors’ claims.
Para 76 which confirms that the quarterly reports on the restructuring of CLICO for December 2011 and March 2012 have been filed in the High Court as required by the new laws cited above.
This is the video of the segment from the show Making A Difference with Felipe Noguera called Caribbean Economic Forum. Appearing with guest Afra Raymond was David Walker, another prominent analyst on the CLICO debacle. Video courtesy Making a Difference
This shows the attempts by various parties to object to my showing the PowerPoint presentation…some of those parties and their attorneys include –
Central Bank – represented by London-based Bankim Thanki QC
Lawrence Duprey – represented by London-based Andrew Mitchell QC
PriceWaterhouseCoopers – represented by Russell Martineau SC, former Attorney General and former President of the Law Association
Andre Monteil – represented by Martin Daly SC, Sunday Express columnist and former President of the Law Association
It is really instructive to consider the various arguments put forward by these parties in an attempt to limit my testimony and ultimately to deny it the benefit of clear illustration via PowerPoint.
There is going to be a real struggle to show the information on this series of financial and economic crimes. That information needs to be shown in as digestible a form as possible, which was the point of my presentation.
Between the strong opposition of the parties who were at the centre of the crisis and the refusal of the government to fund multi-media facilities, we have a fight on our hands to get at the facts.