The start of Sir Anthony Colman's ambitious Commission of Enquiry has been delayed. The first oral evidence hearing of the Enquiry, which was set to begin on May 10, has been pushed back to June 27.
The decision to revise the Enquiry's timetable came after objections were raised by attorneys that the timeframe given to gather documentary evidence and witness statements was too short. Counsel to the Enquiry, Peter Carter, QC, acknowledged that given objections, raised first by Russell Martineau SC and then by Ian Benjamin, Gilbert Petersen SC and Reginald Armour SC, there was no prospect that the Commission would be able to come up with a core bundle by May 10.
While Colman had stated his commission "would not grind to a halt" because of an "odd document", it was the barrage of documents facing the commission and how it would be tabled which caused him to relent to a revised timetable. He observed that the public wanted the Enquiry to get on with its work.
The COE is broad in scope- it deals with the failure of six financial institutions and now has 19 parties to the Enquiry. Five new parties have been added- the Hindu Credit Union Members Group, KPMG Forensic Cananda, Joseph Cassidy, Karen Nunez-Tesheira and First Citizens.
The Enquiry looks into the failure and collapse of CL Financial Limited, Colonial Life Insurance Company Limited, Clico Investment Bank Limited, British American Insurance Company (Trinidad) Limited, Caribbean Money Market Brokers Limited and the Hindu Credit Union Co-Operative hit yesterday. But Armour pointed out that while the oral hearings of the COE has been pushed back, it's wrong for people to think that it's been adjourned as documentary evidence was being gathered in the interim. It was Benjamin who proposed the establishment of a Documentary Working Party, which would consist of lawyers representing the COE parties, be set to collect relevant documents and sift through them. This was a point which Colman endorsed.
Parties now have until May 12 to submit relevant documents to the Commission. Therafter, a core bundle of documents should be agreed upon. Armour raised the point that given the expense to his client, the Commission should consider hearing the Clico matter seperate from HCU's matter. There was also a thorny issue about confidentiality which was first raised by attorney Stuart Young on behalf of his client Ernst & Young and then by Martineau on behalf of his client, Price WaterHouseCoopers. E&Y was subpeoned to appear before the Enquiry to provide three reports it had been commissioned to do- on the HCU, CIB and British American. Young pointed out that the CIB and BA reports were commissioned by the Central Bank and were produced in contemplation of litigation.
He observed that those reports enjoyed litigation privilege while the HCU report, because of on-going investigations by the police, had public interest immunity. Young contented the reports contained confidential information. The COE, he pointed out, was a different setting from a High Court where documents were produced for a judge's eye only. Martineau said the same was true for his client, PriceWaterhouseCoopers. PWC was the auditors of Clico, Cl Financial and Angostura. To this end, it was agreed that a confidentiality protocol would be be established to deal with the documents. The procedural hearing concludes today.