WE DECLINED HUC FINANCING
By Andre Bagoo Sunday, July 15 2012
IN 2008, Larry Howai, the then chief executive officer of First Citizens Bank, and now Minister of Finance, blanked a request from Harry Harnarine for special funding for the Hindu Credit Union (HCU).
Under cross-examination by attorney Fyard Hosein SC, on Thursday at the Colman Inquiry, Harnarine said in 2008, then Prime Minister Patrick Manning instructed him and urged him to knock on the doors of FCB.
Harnarine did so in the course of claiming the State promised a $42 million disbursal of cash to the HCU, which was facing collapse. The cash was supposedly the outcome of a set of talks which saw the former Finance Minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira promise, according to Harnarine, a $71 million loan.
“There is nothing on the record to suggest a promise was made by the Ministry of Finance or that a Central Bank team was to manage the HCU,” Hosein put to Harinarine on Thursday, as he took the stand at the Winsure Building, Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain.
“I maintain that. I was called into a meeting,” Harnarine said.
“And there was no promise to provide $42 million,” Hosein said. Harnarine replied, “I attended a meeting with Mr Larry Howai and the chairman of the First Citizens Bank, Mr Sam Martin, on instruction of the prime minister.”
“That is yet another piece of evidence that has only now emerged,” Hosein said.
“I am sure you will produce another bag of documents after the end of this cross-examination.”
Harnarine also said he met with former Minister of Public Administration, Kennedy Swaratsingh. Hosein told Harnarine his evidence comprised fabrications.
“These are not fabrications,” Harnarine protested and appealed to inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Colman.
“This is no joke business. My Lord, what is going on in this place? There are things that were done. We met with Mr Swaratsingh. I am appealing to the heart of Sir Anthony Colman. There have been too many lies.” (See pages 18, 19 & 20) Contacted on Friday and asked if he met with Harnarine in 2008, Howai said Harnarine may have approached the FCB, but did not get any promise for financing, as implied in his evidence.
“I think he may have approached the bank around that time for financing which was declined,” the Finance Minister said from Tobago on Friday, where the Cabinet was meeting on the choice of a new Central Bank Governor. Asked if Harnarine sought $42 million from the FCB four years ago, Howai said, “I don’t recall. In any event that would be confidential and the bank would be unable to divulge information about a customer.”
The inquiry resumes in September, when Nunez-Tesheira is expected to testify on the HCU.