|Gita, powerful at CL Financial |
Friday, September 23 2011
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FORMER corporate secretary Gita Sakal wielded great power in the corridors of CL Financial, the Clico Commission of Inquiry was told yesterday. Sakal ...
GITA SAKAL, a powerful figure at CL Financial who reportedly signed-off on cheques to pay herself $9 million in 2008, is to testify at the next phase of the Commission of Inquiry into Clico.
The former CL Financial corporate secretary and general counsel has been summoned to give evidence at the Clico Commission of Inquiry, where several questions have been raised over her tenure. She was served with a witness summons—via her parents’ home at Cascade—on Wednesday afternoon. Thus far at the inquiry, Sakal has been accused of pressuring British American Insurance Co into paying her a $12.6 million bonus for 2007; of moving forward with a later reversed $30 million bonus payment for herself in March 2009 and was yesterday accused of signing cheques to pay herself a further $9 million. She is to answer the allegations in November.
In the company of her attorney, Justin Phelps, Sakal yesterday morning attended inquiry proceedings at the Winsure Building, Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain at about 9.15 am.
Colman informed Phelps that the witness summons issued to Sakal will be adjourned to November 7.
Former CL Financial chief financial officer Micheal Carballo, who took the stand for yet another day of cross-examination, confirmed that Sakal had been identified as being among one of several CL Financial officers who were named in a critical draft auditors report which critised the company’s cheque procedures.
A copy of the November 12, 2008, draft audit noted Sakal approved payments to her company Corporate Consultant Limited totalling $9 million.
The report, prepared by Anthony Jones, the chief audit executive, gave a breakdown of these payments noting that the figure includes a payment a $94,000 payment on July 21, 2008 for “board meeting fees”.
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On the same date, Sakal approved another payment to herself, totaling $323,076.92, for “vacation leave”. Other payments included a $6.2 million payment on February 20, 2008.
The auditor did not question the purpose of these payments but rather whether Sakal should have been the company officer to authorise them.
“According to good internal controls, the payee and the company officials responsible for the following should be separate individuals,” the auditor said. “The practice of company officials preparing or approving CRVs (cash repayment vouchers) or cheques for which they are payee can result in perceived conflict of interest; increased opportunity for fraud.”
Carballo noted that Sakal and former CL Financial chairman Lawrence Duprey, without board approval or knowledge, went forward with a deal to dispose of energy assets to Proman. Carballo said such a deal was done “surreptitiously” and was “one hundred percent in breach of the MOU” the State signed with CL Financial in January 2009.
Attorney for Proman, Christopher Hamel-Smith, argued that Sakal was, on the surface, authorised to push through the deal.
“Ms Sakal exercised and was perceived to exercise considerable authority in the group,” Hamel-Smith asked. “That is correct,” Carballo replied.