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CCJ surpasses initial US$100m investment

Saturday, January 25, 2014
Sir Dennis Byron

The initial capital investment of US$100 million in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Trust Fund was surpassed during the course of 2013, according to preliminary estimates revealed to T&T Guardian. The 2012 annual report of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Trust Fund had reported that despite a precipitous decline in global investment markets during the worldwide financial crisis of 2008, the Fund has in fact rebounded over the last few years. 


Trust Fund records show returns on investments - net of disbursements, contributions and expenses - reached +15.9 per cent in 2009 and +10.3 per cent in 2010 before declining -1.8 per cent in 2011 and recovering to +10.1 per cent in 2012. The Fund's long-term target annual rate of return is 8.9 per cent. 


In fact, projections are the US$100 million initial capital investment will prove to have been surpassed during the course of last year as the 2013 accounts are also expected to reflect returns in excess of 10 per cent. At the end of 2012, the Fund balance was US$93.7 million. 



This information follows the claim by Justice Rolston Nelson, during a recent media workshop in Antigua, that the current returns were below what was envisaged and this meant, in his view, the Court would imminently have to request from Caricom member states a further injection of capital into the CCJ Trust Fund. The Fund was established to eliminate the need for annual subventions from participating states and thus insulate the Court from political interference. 


“No court in the world does not rely on taxpayers' funds for support,” CCJ president Sir Dennis Byron said in an interview with T&T Guardian. Justice Byron described use of the CCJ Trust Fund as the best funding mechanism in the world for any court. He did not dismiss recourse to member states to meet new “strategic objectives”, but said returns on the Fund have so far been more than adequate to meet the operating and other expenses of the Court. 


This was even in the face of inflation, fluctuating investment markets and lower interest rates presenting a changing investment climate for the Fund. Justice Byron said he saw no need at this time for a “top up” by member countries. One analyst said the Fund's portfolio was well diversified and included a variety of investments attracting different levels of return, without an over-reliance on any one asset class. 


In its 2012 annual report, for example, the Fund’s Portfolio Asset Composition comprised over 50 per cent in US and Non-US equities, along with emerging market and private equity, while 23.2 per cent was invested in hedge funds. Initial capital for the Fund was raised in 2005 through loans to member states arranged by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). Under the 2004 agreement establishing the Fund, T&T is responsible for 29.73 per cent and Jamaica 27.09 per cent of the investment. 


Neither of these two major contributors has signed on to the appellate jurisdiction of the Court, but they have both been at the centre of major rulings related to the original jurisdiction which focuses on adherence to the Caricom Treaty of Chaguaramas. Under the CCJ’s headquarters agreement with T&T, additional expenses such as housing of the Court and utility bills are being met by the host country. 


There are seven sitting judges of the Court, with provision for an additional three who can be brought on board should more countries sign on to the Court’s appellate jurisdiction.


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