The Integrity Commission wrote to former Finance Minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira in November 2011 admitting it made an error in submitting a report to the DPP alleging that she committed an offence under the Integrity in Public Life Act.
Integrity Commission documents, made available to the T&T Guardian following an exclusive story on the matter in the Sunday Guardian, indicate that the commission started an investigation in March 2010 into an allegations that Nunez-Tesheira had breached the Integrity in Public Life Act.
The original allegation against Nunez-Tesheira was that she participated in the process of managing the financial crisis involving CL Financial and its subsidiaries while being a shareholder and depositor of the group.
The firm of KPMG was appointed to conduct the probe and representatives of the firm–Raoul John, Neil Bhola and Canadian forensic accountant Michael Peer–interviewed Nunez-Tesheira on October 22, 2010.
The commission subsequently, in September 2011, submitted a report based on the investigation to the DPP, in accordance with Section 34 (7) of the Integrity in Public Life Act. That section states: "Where after the conduct of an investigation, the commission is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence has been committed, it shall make a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions who may take such action as he thinks appropriate."
The actions that a DPP can take include instituting and undertaking criminal proceedings against anyone before any court in respect of any offence against the laws of T&T.
The T&T Guardian understands that Nunez-Tesheira's attorneys wrote to the commission on October 14, 2011, stating the matter that had been put to her–a possible or perceived conflict of interest–amounted to a breach of the Code of Conduct of the Act, if established, but it was not a criminal offence under the act.
By letter dated November 23, 2011, the commission's registrar, Martin Farrell, confirmed that the decision of the commission concerned an alleged breach of the Code of Conduct.
Farrell also wrote that "the reference to section 34 (7) in my letter was an error so that the report ought to have been submitted under section 31 (3) of the Act.
"I have written the DPP to apprise him accordingly. I regret and apologise for any inconvenience that this error may have caused," he wrote.
Farrell latter clarified that the commission was of the view that Nunez-Tesheira had a conflict of interest, which she was required to disclose, and that she should have recused herself from any role in the decision-making process with regard to financial assistance to the CL Financial group.
Nunez-Tesheira owned 10,400 CL Financial shares that she inherited from her deceased husband, Russel, who was a top salesman for Clico, an insurance subsidiary of the group.
Section 29 of the Act, which defines conflict of interest, states that it applies to persons in public life who participate in making a decision who know, or ought reasonably to have known, "that in making the decision, there is an opportunity either directly or indirectly to further his private interests or that of a member of his family or of any other person."
The T&T Guardian understands that Nunez-Tesheira has contended that there was no basis for concluding she knew or ought reasonably to have known that there was an opportunity to further her own interests.
Contacted for comment last night, Nunez-Tesheira said: "I am at a loss as to what the article refers to because the last thing I heard from the commission, in relation to the Devant Maharaj complaint, is that they admitted they made an error.
"This admission came only after an exchange of several letters with my attorneys, and the threat of judicial review. This means that the commission had no reasonable grounds for suspecting that an offence had been committed under the Act.
"As far as I am aware, the Integrity Commission cleared me of any offence under the Integrity in Public Life Act."