"Would you now shut up?" was the sharp rebuke from Clico inquiry chairman Sir Anthony Colman to Martin Daly, SC, yesterday. Daly, attorney for Andre Monteil, was demanding evidence from chief CL Financial witness Michael Carballo that he had dissented to Monteil's company acting on behalf of CLF in negotiations with the Government of T&T. Carballo said evidence was found in the CLF's board disapproval in the board minutes of January 31. As both Carballo and Daly raised their voices and sought to get their perspectives across, Commissioner Colman intervened. "I've asked a question. Would you now shut up?" Colman told Daly. Carballo maintained that the board minutes recorded the dissent of the CLF directors.
"It was a row?" asked Colman. "Yes," responded Carballo. "I think we've squeezed that lemon dry now," Colman said, as he directed Daly to engage in a different line of questioning. But Daly wasn't so easily dissuaded.
As he sought to defend his "implicated" party, Daly lost patience with indulgences as he "can't be as courteous as the commissioner and my learned friends" and instead proceeded to attack Carballo's credibility and his witness statement which he claimed was directed solely at his client. "I am fighting for the protection of my client who has been mauvais langued left, right and centre," Daly said. But Daly's defence, which ranged from courtesy to an outright shouting match with Carballo, was curtailed by Colman in many instances who pointed out that he needed to move to another topic or to allow the witness to answer. At one point, Daly even commented: "I am hearing a lot of noise from independent counsel." In a promised six-hour cross-examination, of which only three hours and 30 minutes were completed yesterday, Daly charged that Carballo was jealous of Monteil. "Why would I be jealous of Mr Monteil?" asked Carballo.
"Because he get the big work and you didn't get it. Ask me a stupid question and get a stupid answer," he glibly responded. Carballo told the commission that he was upset at Duprey's choice of Monteil as lead person in negotiations with the Government of T&T.
Daly accused Carballo of telling two lies to the commission.
1. That he never signed a letter, as a CLF director, giving Monteil approval to negotiate the sales of CLF's Republic Bank Limited (RBL) shares. For his part, Carballo-who'd said he was "vehemently opposed" to the letter- said it he'd signed it out of expediency to determine if it was real. The letter allowed Monteil to negotiate a sale for RBL shares at above market rates at $130 a share to which he would earn a 0.5 per cent commission.
2. That he'd sign his witness statement claiming it was true when the truth lay with the annotations he made to the witness statement. And as he sought to manoeuvre Carballo into an area in his 91-page witness statement where he talked about Monteil's acquisition of Flavorite, he accused Carballo of not doing his homework before he made charges against individuals.
Carballo said paragraph 257 of his witness statement was put in because he was dealing with CLF funds. "You are attempting to bring my client into odium and I am entitled to attack your credibility," charged Daly. When commission counsel Peter Carter, QC, interjected, Daly remarked: "Is Mr Carter giving evidence? I thought he would have disowned this." "I apologise if it has been settled, I am happy for the family," said Carballo. "Can I accept an unqualified apology?" questioned Daly. Daly capitalised on Carballo's apology by questioning how he came to produce his witness statement. Carballo explained that he was summoned by the commission and a number of documents was presented to him which he had to comment on. Further, he was asked to furnish the commission with documents in his possession. The final witness statement, said Carballo, was shaped by the legal counsel to the commission. Daly contended that the witness statement was mostly about transactions and Duprey and Monteil. Carballo pointed out that those were the two decision makers in the company at the time. Daly's observation was that the witness statement was aimed exclusively at Monteil. "This is the truth of what I have seen. I have no personal axe to grind with anyone," said Carballo.
But Daly questioned how the witness statement "came to be in that condition" when the commission had independent counsel. "Why is the witness statement so focused?" he asked. Daly pointed out that the statement lacked any insight into the regulators and auditors and questioned whether he was shown any such documents by the independent counsel. He charged that Carballo came with the intention to "stitch up two people." "No disrespect to the bench but everything about the witness and the evidence is pointing one way," he said. "Part of my attack," he stated, "is to make sure the witness has not been used as a tool."
And as Daly proceeded to attack Carballo on allegations, Carballo contended transactions can be re-opened so that Clico policyholders can reclaim monies and he refused to withdraw any allegations. At this point, Colman closed the session. Daly replied: "This is the standard of this commission. We come here to listen to rake."