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Coming home to roost?

PETER O'CONNOR Sunday, November 18 2012

Strange happenings are about in our land. Although there is a lull in the formal proceedings of the Commission of Inquiry into the collapses of Clico and the Hindu Credit Union, Clico at least has been the subject of curious disclosures.

First we had the rather sudden “awakening” of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who with the exception of matters involving Vicky Boodram, has been decidedly somnambulant on all matters of alleged or supposed white-collar crime. And I am not just referring to the current holder of the office, but to the office itself, going back to matters which came to light during the Musthill Inquiry. The Musthill Inquiry? Does anybody remember that? And of course, we must remember the Uff Inquiry into Udecott, where revelations of fiduciary malfeasance abounded. In those matters, as in the current Clico and HCU Inquiry, the media, and many commentators, have been asking if the DPP’s office is asleep, particularly where the Commissions’ Reports have recommended that the police or the DPP pursue matters arising in the reports.

In fairness, we did see prosecutions brought against the persons involved in the Piarco Airport matters — dating back to before 2001. But these were conveniently shelved because the United States government sought the extradition of the two principal local accused. They were wanted in Florida to answer corruption charges for matters where their former business associates had been found guilty and sentenced to prison. However, in a very lengthy process, the two appealed the extradition order of the local courts — all the way to the Privy Council, more than once, and each time the PC said that the extradition was valid. Then earlier this year, a local High Court Judge seemed — to me at least — to overrule the PC and said that the extradition should not be allowed, but they should face the local courts instead. The Attorney General announced that the State would not appeal that decision, because the accused had enough money to keep counter-appealing for years. So the accused would be brought to court locally. But that was before Section 34.

But back to the DPP: In his awakening he has told the media that they cannot report freely on the testimony before the Clico Inquiry because he had sent the file to the police for investigation. No warrants, no arrests, no charges, no appearance before a magistrate, but the media must not report on the sworn testimony of witnesses at a public inquiry? Why is he doing this? Read the papers: suddenly breaking news all around could see charges having to be brought sooner rather than later, and all that needs to be delayed. And all of this is after Section 34.

I have maintained in this column that Section 34 was and remains a deal between the PNM and the PP. And doing what they all did with Section 34 was important enough to take the flack that came with it, even from the PNM, who would always have had to publicly object. Just remember everyone, Section 34 was a blanket of protection to many more than just — look, I’m trying not to call names—the airport people.

And what the big people in this country are starting to realise, is that the chickens are coming home to roost, and they must all be prevented from cackling. What is the story behind this actuary who was in Barbados? Why is his testimony not required at the Inquiry, as alleged? How come he deposited $35 million in EFPA’s and cannot get his money? Are some people being denied getting their investment back? Can we see the list? Actually, if we are paying all these people for their Clico losses (and they really seem ungrateful!), then we need to know who we are paying, and how much.

Remember, no “big- money” people went before the commission. Sir Anthony Colman thought that strange. Did you? Of 16,000 depositors, Mr Permell said that only 1,000 had acted on Republic Bank’s offer to come in and arrange their settlements. So who is not coming forward, and why?

And as the time is ticking by, on all these potential bombshells, Section 34 is before the courts, and if all those charged are released, then we will understand why “brakes are being mashed” on breaking news and revelations at the inquiry.

And the AG did say that cost would not be a factor in prosecuting those who are involved in Clico. Well, one big man did say he was broke, but the airport two are not. So are these prosecutions based upon economics, or justice?

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