18 Nov 2009

Something for the corruption index

It comes as no surprise to me that one of the events that has lowered Trinidad and Tobago's ratings in the Global Corruption Report 2009: Corruption and the Private Sector is one that I have been blogging about time and time again.

The report points to the March 2007 case of the Stone Street Capital company, which paid TT$110 million (US$17.8 million)  for over 40 per cent of the shares of Home Mortgage Bank (HMB), which is partly owned by the state. At the time of the purchase, Stone Street Capital co-owner AndrĂ© Monteil was chairman of both HMB and the privately owned Colonial Life Insurance Company (CLICO) Investment Bank, which sold the HMB shares to Stone Street Capital.

The report further points out, as I did, that laws were modified in order to make this transaction possible. Did someone mention fascism?

`Whereas even a few years earlier the purchase might not have been legal, legislative changes in 2005 and 2007 paved the way for the sales,` said the report.

I have pointed out with painstaking care, at the time, that:

  • Monteil is treasurer of the PNM
  • Monteil is the group financial director of CL Financial, the parent company of CLICO and the chairman of CLICO Investment Bank.
  • The shares were initially CLICO's.
  • The sale was facilitated by a 2007 amendment to the Home Mortgage Bank Act (coincidently passed by a PNM administration).
  • CLICO provided the funds to Monteil to purchase its shares for himself.

Considering that the government had to bail out CLICO financially, I get it stands to reason that CLICO played both sides of the fence.

As an aside, it seems to me that CLICO stands to gain no matter which party wins the election. First there is the matter of a $1M 'scholarship' paid to Oma Panday, now CLICO buying shares for the PNM treasurer.

That was written at the end of August 2007. 16 months later we can see the benefits CLICO reaped, no doubt because of the assistance given to a high ranking PNM member. We can only speculate, besides the obvious, how the PNM has benefited as well.

Naturally, we all can see now that the Minister of Finance probably did know that CLICO was in trouble even all the way back then, and that she is not entirely innocent - of withdrawing money from the beleaguered company - as she makes out to be.

This situation is more than just a mere maze. It seems to me more and more, that there is a lot more hiding than we know about. Don't be surprised if, later on down the road in time, even more is revealed.