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Opposition MP Colm Imbert says Independent Senator Subhas Ramkhelawan should not have been appointed chairman of the T&T Stock Exchange. The issue was raised last month by Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley and minority shareholder activist Peter Permell after news broke that First Citizens’ chief risk officer, H Phillip Rahaman, bought 659,588 shares during last year’s IPO for about $14.5 million. Ramkhelawan is also managing director of the brokerage firm Bourse Securities Ltd. Speaking at a press conference at the Leader of the Opposition office, Charles Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday Imbert said the current issue shows clearly that “it is not a good idea to have a politically exposed person as director of the Stock Exchange. I think that was an oversight. That was an error.”
Imbert said Ramkhelawan now has “to defend himself against allegations of conflict of interest and allegations of a far more serious nature.” Imbert argued that Ramkhelawan “should not be in that position. The chairman of the Stock Exchange should not be in a position where his brokerage house could be investigated by the Stock Exchange.” Stressing that he was not casting any aspersions on the Independent senator, Imbert said it was a bad move and he should not have been called upon to investigate himself as it was a very embarrassing development. Ramkhelawan on Tuesday said that as far as he was concerned no laws were breached in the purchase of the shares by Rahaman nor did he believe his integrity may have been compromised in the transaction.
Imbert said the transaction appeared to be in breach of the Financial Intelligence Act and the matter must be dealt with properly by the Government, as confidence remains essential to the success of a bank and many shareholders were very unhappy about the share depreciation.
He added: “It is one of the few institutions that lives or dies on confidence. One of the things I want to see is FCB get out of this mess fast.”
Imbert said the bank must be willing to demonstrate to the public it was willing to deal with the matter in “a responsible, fair and transparent manner and they are not engaging in any cover- up.”
As a citizen he was calling on the Government to do everything to restore confidence in the bank.
“Do not sweep this matter under the carpet,” he said.
He noted that despite claims by many, the law may have been broken by some in the purchase of shares in First Citizens IPO.
Imbert quoted Section 136 (1) of the Securities Act, which says: “A person who is connected to a reporting issuer shall within five business days of the day that he becomes connected to the reporting issuer file a report in the prescribed form with the commission disclosing any direct or indirect beneficial ownership of or control or direction over securities of the reporting issuer by him.”
He said the law also says anyone who fails to supply the required particulars commits an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment to a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for two years.
Imbert said the law also provided for the individual who may be holding an interest other than as beneficial owner and not reporting it to undergo a similar penalty and for the bank and the broker to have compliance units to ensure due diligence before the transaction was completed.