$17 M MIAMI LIFE
By Andre Bagoo Saturday, June 16 2012
FORMER Hindu Credit Union (HCU) president Harry Harnarine reportedly holds $17 million in real estate at Miami, Florida, according to a report of the State-appointed liquidator of the HCU Dave Rampersad which has been submitted to the Colman Inquiry.
At least ten properties were, as at 2008, identified by the liquidator as being held on behalf of Harnarine. These properties include real estate at Coral Springs, Deerfield Beach, Pembroke Pines, Miramar and Margate. The properties list Harnarine and his relatives, including wife, sister and in-laws, as owners, according to Rampersad’s report which has been obtained by Newsday.
“During the short time I have been the provisional liquidator, I have had approaches from numerous persons who are willing to provide information of some sort or the other,” Rampersad writes in a letter dated August 8, 2008, addressed to the Commissioner for Cooperative Development Charles Mitchell, the credit union regulator. “In fact, detailed information has been sent to my office with regard to assets allegedly held overseas by Mr Harry Harnarine.”
At the Colman Inquiry at Winsure Building, Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday, Harnarine’s lawyer Farid Scoon said the issue of the acquisition of real estate in Florida was one of three main areas of allegations being made against his client in the proceedings.
On Thursday, Sanatan Maha Sabha secretary general Sat Maharaj alleged that the Maha Sabha withdrew its support from the HCU because it was receiving reports of Harnarine acquiring properties in Miami. Maharaj said he conducted searches and found several properties had been bought by Harnarine. This information, he said, was forwarded to the State agencies now overlooking the HCU.
Contacted last night, however, Harnarine said he does not own a single property in Miami. While the liquidator has linked ten properties to him, he said he owned only one property in Miramar, Miami which was sold in 2006. HCU funds were not used to acquire this or any other property, he said.
“I own no property whatsoever in Miami,” he said. “I came from a very wealthy family. I have never taken money from the HCU. Take money from the HCU to do what? I don’t know why people are making this judgement on me I work in the bank, the trade union movement. They feel if an Indian make anything they have to cut back. People not giving me a fair chance. Honestly I am excited to testify next month.”
Of Maharaj’s claim to finding information about Miami properties, Harnarine said, “He just type my name and my wife name and a series of names in a database of people owning properties. I own one property in Florida I bought that from Clico and sold it in 2006. It was in Miramar and was in my sister’s name and my name.”
A non-audit report by Ernst & Young, however, appears to corroborate the liquidator’s report to some extent.
The Ernst & Young report found that the HCU formed several HCU subsidiaries, often without the approval of the Commissioner for Cooperative Development, and had, under Harnarine, acquired properties in Miami using shareholder funds.
In identifying the reasons for the HCU “distress” in 2004, the report notes that properties were acquired in Florida via HCU Financial Company (USA) LLC (originally called Mediaco LLC). The company’s shareholders were three HCU directors, including Harnarine. There was no trust document linking the firm to the HCU, meaning anything the US company owned was effectively owned by the shareholders.
“It appeared that HCU USA purchased a property in Miramar, Florida, at a cost of US$156,010,” the report, also submitted to the Colman Inquiry, found. “This was purchased as a rental property. However, there was uncertainty over the ‘true’ registered owner of this property.”
Also, “There was a second property which based on file correspondence was purchased in Pembroke Pines, Florida for US$185,000 in 2004. The property was owned by a related party.”
The report noted further that, “No board approvals nor property valuation were seen for this purchase. Furthermore, the property was not disclosed in the HCU Financial LLC financial statements for the years ended September 2004 or 2005. Evidence of wire transfers was seen from HCU to lawyers for at least part of the payment for this property.”
The Ernst & Young report notes it is unclear what has happened to the assets of the Miami outfit.
“It was also unclear what happened to the assets of HCU USA and what arrangements were made to have these assets liquidated and returned to the HCU upon closure,” the E&Y report noted. “Based on discussions with HCU’s legal counsel in Florida, HCU was said to have no direct rights to HCU USA’s assets in Florida.”
The Inquiry has heard evidence of a $220,000 trip to Florida, including two stops at Walt Disney World, in 2003 by Harnarine. Among the bills Harnarine’s sister Homawatie Harnarine (also known as Pamela Harnarine) submitted to the inquiry in relation to this trip were several bills for hotel stays. One such invoice lists Harry Harnarine’s billing address as “542 Southwest 127th Avenue, Miramar, FL 33027.” Harnarine is due to testify, and be cross-examined, at the inquiry next month.