Ian K Ramdhanie, msC,
Investigations by PriceWaterhouseCoopers into the First Citizens IPO have been completed and the report has been submitted to the Attorney General, who in turn has passed it on to the Director of Public Prosecutions. However, the report cannot be tabled in Parliament or made public until the criminal investigation into the matter is done, Finance Minister Larry Howai said yesterday.
Howai said: “The AG, following consultations with the DPP, has advised that the report cannot be tabled or publicly and widely shared until the investigation is complete.” According to Howai, Ramlogan said releasing the report would be “unwise and unfair to the investigation.” He said the report has “also been shared” with the Securities Exchange Commission, which is also conducting a probe into the matter. He said the investigation started in April and was still in progress.
He said he was aware of the perception that the SEC was “taking an inordinate amount of time, but I wish to point out that investigations of such complex, financial transactions do take time.” St Joseph MP Terrence Deyalsingh interrupted Howai to ask a question on the matter and as he was about to respond, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley rose to inform the House that he had a question on the First Citizens IPO which remained unanswered.
He said he wanted to know if Howai was trying “in a roundabout way” to answer a question he (Rowley) had tabled on whether the report would be laid in Parliament so it could be discussed. According to the Standing Orders, a minister is not supposed to give the answer to a question on the order paper except if it is under the agenda item. Rowley said Howai was aware of the question. Speaker Wade Mark then advised Howai “not to go into details until the question is answered.”
Howai then apologised to Rowley, saying it was not intended to be any disrespect to him. Howai said he would answer the question at the appropriate time. A probe was ordered by Howai after it became public that former First Citizens chief risk officer, Phillip Rahaman, had purchased 659,588 shares, valued at $14.4 million, in the IPO, then sold them for $26.7 million, making a profit of $12.2 million. Rahaman was subsequently fired by the bank’s board after public pressure on the issue.
Under pressure for her involvement in the overseeing of the IPO and the handling of the subsequent fallout from it, the board’s chairman Nyree Alfonso also stepped down at the bank’s last AGM. She has since been replaced by Anthony Smart.