You are here
HCU investors pour out their grief
Lured by high interest rates, shareholders who invested in the Hindu Credit Union (HCU) went from prosperity to poverty, after HCU’s funds had dried up in June 2008. After she’d invested her life’s savings into the HCU, all Camini Cole could get back was $500, she testified at yesterday’s sitting of the Commission of Enquiry COE into the collapse of the CL Financial and HCU empires. The “beautiful life” Cole had planned to live when she retired had evaporated along with her independence. Shaun Khan said his grandfather died from a stroke three days after he learnt that his money was in trouble in the Harry Harnarine-run credit union. Khan said he’d never been able to get the money his grandfather had invested in the credit union to pay for surgery.
But blame should not rest solely on the shoulders of Harnarine, conceded Jennifer Gobin, a nurse manager who represents shareholders and depositors of the HCU. “I sit here today and I can’t say it was just him alone who caused the demise of the HCU,” she told the COE yesterday. Gobin said the lack of oversight by the Commissioner of Co-operatives into the growth and expansion of the HCU was one factor to consider as well as a management failure in the organization. “And although I may cry, it’s crying out of anger because the people who have the power vested in them to actually make the situation better are just not doing anything about it. Whoever has caused this situation to happen—while I am not saying Mr Harnarine solely caused the demise of the HCU—I am saying I am certain he enjoys his quality of life while myself and my family continue to suffer. There’s some unfairness about that,” Gobin told the COE. “Certainly sounds like it,” responded Peter Carter, counsel to the Commission.
Gobin, who spoke of counselling other cash-strapped shareholders of the HCU, said the COE was the first forum that allowed them to outline their woes. She explained that the shareholders could not drum up the money to pay for a lawyer and had written to ten attorneys seeking representation but were rejected. She said a letter was also sent to the Ministry of Finance with a request for financial assistance to pay for legal representation but the advice was to seek help from the Legal Aid Authority. Up to yesterday, when several witnesses gave statements about the HCU at the COE, they were still in the dark as to the exact cause of the company’s crash. Gobin who acknowledged that being a member of a “Hindu” organisation was part of the pull for her investment, told the COE: “It always pained me to hear the Hindu Credit Union in a negative light. It always did. Even now I would wish the HCU well. I just don’t want my funds there.”
While the Ernst & Young report of September 2008 gives some insight into how the organization was run, Harnarine always stated that “bad publicity” had caused two runs on the credit union. “My question was—Why can’t you manage a run? You’ve built this institution into a million dollar business,” questioned Gobin. After three rejected cheques from the HCU, Gobin said, she and her husband informed Harnarine of their decision to close their accounts with the HCU in May 2008. They were never able to close their accounts or to receive monies owed because the Commissioner of Co-operatives appointed a Liquidator in June 2008. “It just breaks you. It breaks you physically. It breaks you emotionally. It breaks you spiritually. You lose faith in the powers that be who were placed there to protect you. You hope that there is a Government out there whose main concern is the welfare of the people. “You lose faith in human nature. You lose faith in financial institutions. You lose faith in professionals who are supposed to help you and you just don’t know what to do. You don’t know where to go from here,” an emotional Gobin told the COE.
“When things happen negatively, you’re supposed to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again. But when you, from the age of about 10, decide: I’m not going to get married with 2.2 children; I’m not going to retire at 60; I want to do charitable things; I want to get a school for disabled children. And all those dreams have been snatched from you and you just don’t know where to go after that. And there’s nobody who can actually help you,” she said. She spoke of the challenges the group faced when arranged meetings were disrupted by supporters of Harnarine. “There’s a core group of people who are very loyal to him, which is great, but people were actually afraid after that meeting,” she said. She admitted to enjoying a cordial relationship despite being “very angry” with him. Sir Anthony Colman, commissioner of COE, expressed concern about alleged “heavy-handed persuasion” being brought to bear against HCU witnesses. Colman said this “oppressive conduct” would not be tolerated at his commission. Further, he warned, that if blame can be laid at the doorstep of anyone, they’ll be brought before the Commission to explain themselves. “Once we’ve had the opportunity to come public now, we will not let this matter rest,” she stated.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.