Former Clico business magnate Lawrence Duprey has written to the commission of enquiry into the collapse of Clico to say he is unwilling to appear before it to give evidence. Commission sources said the commissions' secretary Judith Gonzalez, received the letter yesterday morning.
Duprey initially said he was willing to testify at the enquiry which is being chaired by British QC Sir Anthony Colman. But sources told the T&T Guardian that when he consulted his legal team, he was advised not to take part in it since the police had begun an official probe into the collapse of Clico. Duprey subsequently wrote to say he was withdrawing his legal team from the proceedings.
He could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon, as calls to his cellphone went unanswered. In a previous interview with the T&T Guardian, Duprey, 79, who now lives in Florida, said he was broke and wasfocusing on philanthropy. He also said his health was failing.
The Government has so far spentsome $20 billion to bail out Clico which collapsed in 2009. The 11th hearing of the enquiry is scheduled for February 26 to March 8 at the Winsure Building, Port-of-Spain. Sources said it would proceed despite Duprey's absence.
Testimony given at the enquiry so far has alleged hundreds of millions of dollars were squandered and millions of dollars transferred during suspicious transactions. On November 8, Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, in a media release, said the police had started a criminal investigation into the conduct of individuals and corporate entities involved in the collapse of Clico and related companies.
The announcement came as Gaspard warned the media "should not publish or broadcast anything which might jeopardise, hinder or otherwise prejudice the investigation or any possible proceedings which might result from it." He also wrote to Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and Colman over the public hearing of the enquiry. Gaspard said if the enquiry went on, it was likely to delay a prosecution and jeopardise the police investigation.
Gaspard's initial letter to Ramlogan expressed concern over the enquiry but the AG refused to advise the President to suspend it immediately, or at least vary its terms of reference. Colman also refused Gaspard's request, saying it was ultimately up to the Government to decide whether the enquiry should continue in light of a police probe.
During the last hearing,former Clico Investment Bank (CIB) president Richard Trotman said he wished to invoke his right against self-incrimination. He declined to testify further after previously giving evidence that hundreds of millions of dollars had been handed out in loans to former CL Financial executives, including $121 million in unverified "loans" paid to a senior Clico official.
Trotman also testified about transactions which saw millions of dollars being used to buy land in Grenada and also money being "loaned" to other senior officials within the Clico conglomerate. After Gaspard's warning, Colman ruled that Duprey would not have to respond to requests to attend the hearing on the basis of the police probe and the right to not incriminate himself. Trotman was also warned of his right to not incriminate himself.
Representing Duprey at the enquiry are Andrew Mitchell, QC, and attorney Lionel Luckhoo.