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Clico policyholders will fight to the very end—Ramesh (with CNC3 video)
Clico’s Executive Flexible Premium Annuity (EFPA) policyholders who won a major judgment against the State for non-payment of their monies are ready to challenge any appeal. The announcement was made yesterday by former attorney general Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, during a news briefing at Gaston Court, Chaguanas. Maharaj met with the policyholders yesterday at the same venue to discuss their concerns.
Last Tuesday Justice Joan Charles, in a 47-page judgment, ruled that some 250 policyholders must be refunded the full value of their policies amounting to more than $300 million. Charles said the Government failed to keep a promise made to the policyholders by the previous PNM administration who had agreed to pay the full amount on the EFPA.
The good news for the claimants, however, could be short-lived as Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran said they would appeal the ruling on behalf of the Government. Maharaj said the Government, which had six weeks to file an appeal, was entitled to do so but such an exercise would be without merit. When the case was prepared, he said, it was done in such a way to be heard in the High Court, the Appeal Court and the Privy Council.
Maharaj said what the Appeal Court could do was to hear the matter within three months and come to a decision in the shortest possible time. Saying the judgment showed the Government acted illegally, improperly and unfairly, Maharaj said the administration should “cut its losses” and do the honourable thing by giving policyholders what was owned to them.”
“The Government should not waste taxpayers’ money and obtain lawyers to fight this matter but we are willing to fight an appeal and we welcome an appeal if it becomes necessary,” he said. “We would be entitled, if the Government appeals, to ask the court to pay to the policyholders an interim payment. That is a payment on account of the judgment.” He said the reason being was that the Government had admitted the policyholders were entitled to be paid but the question was how much they should be paid.
“The Government was saying the policyholders were entitled to get a plan which would have only given them a yield about 80 per cent of their monies,” Maharaj said. “If the policyholders have a judgment in their favour and the Government wants to appeal there would be nothing wrong for the Government paying on account of the judgment 80 per cent awarded to the policyholders,” Maharaj said.
Describing the matter as a landmark case, Maharaj said it was one in which the Government knew the policyholders were treated unfairly. He said from the evidence the State produced in court, it meant the Government knew that Clico had sufficient assets to pay the claim and sufficient assets to place in a statutory fund. “So what the Government was in effect doing was defrauding the Clico policyholders by telling them there was not sufficient monies to pay them when in truth and fact there was sufficient monies,” he said.
Regarding the policyholders who were not part of this claim, Maharaj said any government which has respect for truth and morality would not turn its back especially in light of such a judgment. He said it was the Government’s “misrepresentation” of the truth that forced policyholders to take up an offer which amounted to “economic duress.”
Saying he intended to fight the case to the end, Maharaj invited Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Ramlogan to “put on their court clothes and come” if they decided to appeal. “The Government should consider this has a serious effect on the country’s economy, on the Government’s credibility and the Government must understand it is a government for all and it has a sacred responsibility to act in the public’s interest.”
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