Information in the public domain by the previous administration was in the sum of $24.5 billion, he said, referring to a sheet of paper, “but this (Central Bank) document speaks to $19.5 billion.” Announcing his intention to conduct the forensic audit at yesterday’s post-Cabinet press conference at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s Imbert said that he intends to clear up the confusion as to how much has been paid back and how much was still owed in an effort to recover as much money as possible.
Noting that he has been getting weekly updates on the issues of Clico, CL Financial and its subsidiaries, Imbert said, a lot of the details of the agreements between them and Government “have been virtually shrouded in secrecy over the last five years, or so,” A number of variations to the original agreement exist, and there were 16 extensions to the United Shareholder’s Company agreement.
Found among the records, and which was “not properly disclosed by the former administration”, he said, was a heads of agreement that was entered into on May 24, 2013 between then finance minister Larry Howai and Roger Duprey representing the United Shareholders Company with respect to an agreement for repayment on the disposal of all of the assets of the CL Financial companies.
“What was interesting about this heads of agreement — which was kept secret since 2013,” he said, was that it “states that Government has advanced by way of financial support to the affected subsidiaries approximately $19.6 billion.” In recent weeks, he said, he learnt of a disagreement between persons representing CL Financial (the United Shareholders group) and Government with respect to the amount of money Government had put into the bailout and how much was owed.
“This again is a matter that has not seen the light of day until today,” he said.
Noting that Government simply wants to recover monies owed to taxpayers, he said, “We do not wish to run the companies like Angostura, Republic Bank” and will be looking at different ways and means to do this.
Clearing up confusion with Clico and CL Financial, he said, Clico was taken over by the Central Bank under emergency powers of the Central Bank Act in pursuant of disposing Clico’s assets to recover its taxpayers monies used to bailout Clico, while CL Financial, a holding company, that owns shares in Clico, Angostura, Home Construction, CL Marine among others, was treated separately.
“My latest information,” he said, “is that Clico owed the Government of Trinidad and Tobago approximately $16.9 billion.” To date, Government has been repaid $4 billion from the proceeds of the sale of the NHTL Methanol Company. Central Bank has presented him as Minister of Finance, he said, with a plan to recover the $12.9 billion.
The plan will form the basis of a note he intends to submit to Cabinet in the next two to three weeks, he said.
“Once Cabinet agrees then Central Bank will be given the authority to proceed with its plan to recover the $12.9 billion,” he said.