|‘I would not shame myself for $150,000’ |
By Andre Bagoo Tuesday, March 1 2016
PLANNING Minister Camille Robinson-Regis yesterday held a media conference at which she accused State-owned First Citizens Bank (FCB) of a breach of confidentiality in relation to a $93,000 part-cash transaction which drew the attention of bank officials over a month ago.
The minister denied a report that the transaction was $150,000 and gave four explanations for the “unusual” form the transaction took, namely: 1) money was received from her ill husband for the purpose of urgently paying the St Clair Medical and doctors in relation to unspecified treatment he underwent (and has since fully recovered from); 2) some money had been withdrawn from a savings account and were applied, in a lumpsum, to the part-payment of a mortgage at TTMF; 3) some money was also applied to a credit card; and 4) a clerical error resulted in her salary being placed at the wrong bank.
FCB last night said it had not had time to review the Minister’s statements but treated confidentially seriously and complied with laws relating to the declaration of funds. Yesterday morning, a Ministry spokesperson emailed the media stating, “an urgent matter” would be subject to a media conference at Level 20 of the Eric Williams Finance Building, which houses the Ministry, at 2pm. The media release gave no details of the nature of the conference.
“I have called this press conference, as I told you, to deal with a personal matter,” Robinson-Regis said. She then recounted a sequence of events which began on February 28 when a reporter contacted her via Whatsapp with a list of questions in relation to a report that she had deposited $150,000 at First Citizens, Arima.
MONEY WAS DECLARED
The Minister said she replied to the query stating, “I would like to indicate that the amount in question was $93,000 which represented my salary which had been deposited in Republic Bank from September to January. The money was declared using the source of funds form.
And documents evidencing same sent from Republic. No big mystery.
Need more info?” The Minister said she further stated, “They did ask me to do the source of funds and then contacted me to send a document from Republic, which I did” and “I won’t sully my name for $150,000 or any amount for that matter.” Robinson-Regis then told members of the media, “Ladies and Gentlemen, since this is not the first time I have had to endure such blatant acts of maltreatment from the First Citizens Bank, where I have been a customer since the age of 18 years old, I have taken the decision to close all accounts that I have with First Citizens Bank.
Clearly there is a clear breach of confidentiality and so I am taking this decision. Tomorrow morning (today) I will be going to the bank and closing all accounts that I have with First Citizens Bank because I cannot continue to be a customer or client with the bank because I fear that there may be a repetition of breach in confidentiality.” The Minister continued, “Personally I see today as a dark day, given what I have experienced with the bank, and in the circumstances I trust that citizens of Trinidad and Tobago would not be subjected to such unsavoury acts by this bank which ought to be the flagship financial institution in Trinidad and Tobago.” Of the nature of the transaction, the Minister said, “the question will probably be asked, well why were you depositing these funds from Republic into FCB? I was not depositing funds as such. What I did – my husband (Fitz Regis) was ill. He gave me some money because we had to pay St Clair Medical.
So we made cheques payable to St Clair Medical and to the doctors who were performing the surgery.
Thank God the surgery was successful and he is more or less back to normal.” The Minister further said, “Additionally, I had been in contact with TTMF because I am paying the mortgage on my home and they told me I had 15 more years to pay the mortgage and I decided that since I had some savings I would take out the savings and put that money to paying part of the mortgage, paying a lumpsum to TTMF. So there is no mystery in this transaction.”
MINISTER VEX WITH FCB
Though she alleged breach of confidentiality, the Minister said she understood the FCB had certain information in relation to other persons.
“I am really very disturbed that FCB, that, as far as I understand it, has other information on non-PNM politicians depositing large sums of money in their accounts, has taken it upon themselves to reveal a simple transaction that I made on a personal level and I am very disappointed in the State-owned bank,” she said. “Tomorrow I will be with the FCB and withdraw every single cent that I have with that bank.” On whether the transaction was cash or not, the Minister said, “Some of it was cash because the account I had with Republic – the other account I have is a savings account. We needed to have access to the money right away because my husband was really going through a difficult time and we needed to pay the doctors and they would only take cheques.
Some of it he gave me, I took from my account and some I had in the account. So we made cheques to various (entities) from Republic Bank and we also made cheques through FCB. FCB is the bank that I use to do my mortgage, but because of a clerical error at the Ministry they had been putting my salary in Republic Bank. And it is as simple as that.” She added, “It was, perhaps a little unusual, but he gave me his money and I took out some of my money all in cash. He was not well enough to go so I went to the bank with his money. It was not a deposit. It was not a transfer. It was money used to do a cheque or several cheques, some to St Clair Medical, some to the doctors who were doing the surgery, and some to TTMF, and I also put some money on my credit card.” Asked how sure she was that a breach occurred at FCB, the Planning Minister said, “I would say 100 per cent and this is also based on that previous encounter with FCB and that credit card.” She added, “It was just so wanting to get it done because his surgery was quite costly and he was suffering so I just wanted to get it done. I understand that. I guess if it was anything that I wanted to hide I would not have been so stupid but it was not anything that I thought about.” The Minister further said, “I have been working for a long time, so I am not exactly a pauper. I am not rich but I am certainly not going to make myself and my mother – who is still alive – shame for $150,000 and it was not even $150,000, and my husband and my children and Dr Rowley for that matter.” On her husband’s state now, she said, “He is a lot better thank you so much for asking and the surgery was quite successful.” She said her mother, Doris Robinson, will be 90 on June 18. “I want her to live a little longer,” Robinson-Regis said. In 2007, Robinson-Regis was accused of mis-use of a State credit-card.
She was not selected, that year, by former Prime Minister Patrick Manning to contest a seat in that year’s election.