Clico Investment Bank (CIB) interim manager Carl Hiralal, who filed a petition at the High Court to have the cash-strapped CIB wound up, will be cross-examined on his decision to do so. Despite efforts by attorneys representing the CIB to shield Hiralal from cross-examination, High Court Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh yesterday ruled that Hiralal's evidence must be examinable. Boodoosingh, sitting in a civil court at the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, then ordered that Hiralal attend court on March 16, to face cross-examination.
Hiralal, who is also the Director of Financial Institutions, was present for almost every court hearing since he filed the petition last April. But yesterday, he did not attend court. Boodoosingh said he could not agree with attorney for CIB Neil Bisnath that the petition should be decided on the affidavit Hiralal had sworn to.
"This application cannot succeed only on the merit of the affidavit," the judge said. He said the affidavit's "reliability, credibility and weight" had to be tested on cross-examination. On April 15, 2010, Hiralal, who was appointed as interim CIB manager by the Central Bank Governor, filed a petition to have CIB wound up and try and offset its debts.
He subsequently swore to an affidavit to support the petition. But the National Gas Company (NGC) and National Insurance Board (NIB) opposed the application. Combined, the state entities have investments totalling $1.8 billion. They are objecting to the petition on the premise that if CIB is wound up, because of the nature of their investments, they would find themselves at the bottom of the payout list and recover very little. Yesterday, attorney for CIB, Deborah Peake, described as "absurd", the move by CIB lawyers to block the examination of Hiralal's evidence. She said the evidential burden on the petitioner would not be discharged by the affidavit alone, but also by cross-examination.
Dr Claude Denbow, who leads Dharmendra Punwasie and Donna Denbow for NGC, said any such move to restrict cross-examination "was a perversion of justice." This, he said, should not be entertained by the court. According to the winding up rules, Hiralal must prove-on a balance of probabilities-that CIB was unable to pay its debts and it is just, fair and equitable to wind up the company. To support this petition, CIB filed affidavits sworn by Hiralal, Maria Daniel, director at Ernst and Young, and Wendy Ho Sing, former deputy Inspector of Financial Institutions. Denbow (Claude) said he wanted to cross-examine Hiralal on matters he considered in deciding to wind up. He said he also intended to question Daniel, on her competence to determine insolvency matters.