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Judge tells Gov’t to look at making Colman Report Public

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Sir Anthony Coleman

SAN FERNANDO – A High Court judge has called upon the Trinidad and Tobago Government to review its decision not to make public the Colman Commission of Enquiry into the collapse of CL Financial, British American Insurance Company (BAIC) and Caribbean Money Market Brokers (CMMB).

Justice Frank Seepersad also ordered that the Ministry of Finance hand over the list of creditors and the sums paid to individuals by CLICO, a subsidiary of CL Financial to surveyor Afra Raymond who had taken this matter to court after ministry refused to release the information to him.

British Queen’s Counsel Sir Anthony Colman was appointed in November 2010 as the sole commissioner to look into the collapse of CL Financial in January 2009.

After four years of interviews and investigation, Colman produced a report in June 2016 and less than a month later Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley told Parliament  the electronic copy of the report will remain sealed and sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for his “consideration and comments or advice on the time on which this document should be made public in its entirety or partially.”

In his judgement at the San Fernando High Court yesterday, Justice Seepersad said, “The fact that a Commission of Inquiry was formed in order to carry out such an investigation fortifies this court’s view that there exists an undeniable public interest in ascertaining and understanding the multiplicity of failures and factors which led to the collapse of these financial institutions and there is an equal need to ensure that no irregularities occurred during the bailout. The decision not to disclose the contents of the Commission’s report is one which should urgently be reviewed in the public interest,”

In ruling that the list of creditors be given to Raymond, Justice Seepersad said given the crime situation in the country, the names and the amounts should not be listed together.

Raymond had sought details of creditors and payments with respect to Caribbean CMMB, BAIC, CLICO and CLICO Investment Bank (CIB) and their subsidiaries and CL Financial and its distressed subsidiaries included in the CL Financial bailout.

Justice Seepersad noted that the Ministry of Finance, on behalf for the Government, assisted policyholders and creditors of CL Financial and its subsidiaries and, in so doing, substantial public funds were used.

Seepersad said: “Given the financial burden which the bailout imposed upon citizens, there is merit in the contention that the requested information though covered with a cloak of confidentiality, is information which should be disclosed in the public interest.

“Citizens have the right to be satisfied that all payments made were legitimate and the public needs to be reassured that there has been no neglect in the performance of duties by those who were charged with the responsibility for this bailout. Transparency, accountability and good governance demands that all bailout payments should be subject to rigorous public scrutiny.”

$109 million was paid to one individual by CLICO and the judge made a ruling that within 28 days, Raymond is to be provided with the list of the creditors and the sums paid to individuals.

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