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Duprey, Monteil refuse to testify as Clico Commission of Enquiry begins tomorrow
When the Eleventh Evidence Hearing of the Commission of Enquiry into the collapse of CL Financial and the Hindu Credit Union (HCU) begins tomorrow morning at the Winsure Building, Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain. two major players in Clico and the State’s 2009 $20 billion bailout will not be among the witnesses.
Hearings are scheduled to continue until to March 8 but there is not likely to be testimony from former Clico business magnate Lawrence Duprey or Andre Monteil, former group financial director of CL Financial, as both have used Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard’s revelation of a police probe into the collapse of the conglomerate as the reason why they cannot answer any questions.
This development comes more than a year and a half into the enquiry which has already cost the state an estimated $50 million. Last month, Duprey wrote to the commission of enquiry to say he is unwilling to appear before it to give evidence because his legal team had advised him not to take part since the police had begun an official probe into the collapse of Clico. He also said he was withdrawing his legal team from the proceedings.
The inquiry started in March 2011. A police probe into the HCU had commenced since 2008, but no applications have been made on pre-trial publicity by the DPP until late last year. Gaspard announced a police probe of Clico Financial approximately three years after the State’s intervention in the company in January 2009. Testimony given at the enquiry so far has alleged hundreds of millions of dollars were squandered and millions of dollars transferred during suspicious transactions. Last November 8, just before the start of the Tenth Evidence Hearing in December, Gaspard announced in a media release that the police had started a criminal investigation into the conduct of individuals and corporate entities involved in the collapse of Clico and related companies.
He warned that the media “should not publish or broadcast anything which might jeopardise, hinder or otherwise prejudice the investigation or any possible proceedings which might result from it.” Gaspard also wrote to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and chairman of the Clico/HCU enquiry Sir Anthony Colman about the public hearings. He said if the enquiry went on, it could delay prosecution and jeopardise the police investigation.
However, the AG refused to advise the President to suspend the enquiry, or vary its terms of reference and Colman refused Gaspard’s request, saying it was up to the government to decide whether the enquiry should continue. “The public interest in open investigation extends to the media as much as to the public enquiries set up for such purpose,” Sir Anthony said in a written ruling on December 4. “The administration of criminal justice should normally be allowed to proceed notwithstanding prior adverse press comment unless a fair trial is impossible. So also should public enquiries proceed unless the risk that their future conduct will create fair trial prejudice is so great as to displace that public interest.”
More than $20 billion has been spent by government in the Clico bail out since the company collapsed in 2009. CL Financial was the largest privately held conglomerate in T&T and one of the largest privately held corporations in the Caribbean. Founded in 1936 as an insurance company, Colonial Life Insurance Company (Clico) by Cyril Duprey, it was expanded into a diversified company by his nephew, Lawrence Duprey. At its peak CL Financial encompassed more than 65 companies in 32 countries worldwide with total assets exceeding US$100 billion.
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