You are here
Clico/HCU inquiry told: Ex-HCL boss paid $135m in four years
Anthony Michael Fifi, former CEO of the CL Financial (CLF) subsidiary Home Construction Ltd (HCL), had a contract with the parent company in which he was paid $135 million between 2004 and 2008, said Terrence Bharath, attorney for the Clico Policyholders Group.
“My figures are below that,” replied Fifi, who was the lone witness for six hours at yesterday’s Commission of Inquiry into Clico and the Hindu Credit Union at the Winsure Building, Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain. “It is closer to $79 million,” he said.
“My instructions are, whether it is $79 million or $135 million, you were paid substantial sums in which you provided no other services other than your own,” said Bharath, whose questioning of Fifi lasted almost three hours before the inquiry broke for lunch close to 1 pm.
“It was fair payment in exchange for what I did for HCL,” said Fifi, who described his services as “mind and management.” Fifi, 70, said he had a management contract with CLF to manage HCL under the name PMI Ltd, which he described as a personal company he had set up in 2004, after he retired, to continue management of HCL.
Bharath told Fifi that under his management contract, PMI, which was registered in Barbados, was paid for salaries, tools and equipment and sub-contractors and skilled and unskilled labour. “Basically, I set up the organisation and I continued to operate it,” said Fifi, who said he ran PMI out of his office at the Long Circular Mall, St James.
When Fifi began to say that PMI was a “device set up to...,” Bharath interrupted him to say, “It was a device to fill your pockets,” to which Fifi immediately responded, “That is your opinion.” Bharath: “The structure had no effect at all. It was just you. You told me the malls alone—Valpark Shopping Plaza, Long Circular Mall, Trincity Mall and Atlantic Plaza— may have employed 200 people, and that does not include One Woodbrook Place (OWP).”
Bharath suggested to Fifi that Roxanne Husbands was the corporate secretary at HCL and also the corporate secretary at PMI. He said Fifi’s fixed annual fee was about $3 million a year, which excluded a technical fee of three per cent of gross revenue; a US$3.3 million (TT$19 million) mobilisation fee, and a performance incentive.
Fifi maintained throughout being questioned by Bharath that his contract was fair payment for his building and developing HCL. Fifi said he did not know what Bharath was referring to regarding Corum Ltd, but he, or rather PMI, did own a building comprising 22,000 square feet at 122 St Vincent Street, Port-of-Spain, up to 2008, when he left HCL.
It was rented by a travel agency, a retail business, and two floors comprising 9,000 square feet were rented for two years by HCL and occupied by Planviron, a subsidiary of HCL, which CLF executive chairman Lawrence Duprey signed off on.
“The connections were clear,” Fifi said. “Did you notify the board?” Bharath asked. “Nothing was hidden; they all knew,” Fifi said. “There was nothing clandestine or underhand about it.” Asked if Regency Homes Ltd was owned by him and his wife, Fifi said he was not sure about his wife, but definitely him, and that engineers had temporarily stayed at a property he owned in St James, since if they had to rent an apartment at the time, it would have cost twice as much.
Attorney Jagdeo Singh, appearing for the Ministry of Finance, later asked Fifi how many employees PMI had, to which Fifi replied two—himself and a driver. “US$4 million, US$3 million for two employees? $78 million over a four-year period?” “It was more than a four-year period,” Fifi said. “The invoices actually took sums from 2003, it turned out to be a five-year period.”
Singh said the Holiday Inn Express Hotel at Trincity was not included in HCL 20 subsidiaries, yet there were invoices that asked for payment for services made to the hotel. When Singh asked how such services were accounted for, Fifi said, “Either this is an oversight in the listing of Holiday Inn Express.”
“In other words, you billed for work you did not do,” Singh said. Fifi: “Never, I never billed for work I did not do. I always added value.” Fifi was asked to account for requesting payment of $757,996.21 for an entire year when invoices were to be presented quarterly and one such invoice was for the period April-March, 2008.
HCL separation package
Singh asked Fifi about his separation package when he left HCL in 2008, whether he had received a compensation package of $176 million, to which Fifi replied, “Absolute nonsense.” He said $12 million was agreed on for the purchase of PMI, which owned a 25,000-square-foot building valued at $30 million, and a PMI debt of $22 million and the closing of the arrangement for an apartment at OWP, a total of $64 million.
“I got three payments for $3 million and that was the extent of it,” Fifi said. “I hear $176 million being bandied about. I would love to collect that.”
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.