Chairman of T&T stock exchange quits following controversial shares purchase

(Trinidad Express) Subhas Ramkhelawan yesterday resigned as an Independent senator and as chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange (TTSE).

Ramkhelawan remains the managing director of his brokerage company, Bourse Securities, which is the subject of an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), on its role in the purchase and sale of former First Citizens chief risk officer Philip Rahaman’s 656,688 bank shares.

Rahaman used Bourse Securities to purchase the shares from the employee bucket at the bank during its initial public offering (IPO), and Bourse also acted for the buyer of the shares when it was put on the market on January 14.

The Express exclusively reported on the market manipulation on January 14 where the share was priced above market at $42.15, which allowed Rahaman’s family—Imtiaz Rahaman (chairman of Bourse Securities); his mother, Alia Rita Rahaman; and five companies from the Rahaman family-controlled Rahamut Group—to acquire the exact 634,588 shares disposed of in the transaction.

The Express understands Ramkhelawan’s resignation from the positions comes two days after he held discussions with Attorney General Anand Ramlogan on the matter on Tuesday evening.

Asked yesterday about this meeting, Ramlogan said: “He hasn’t been to my office. We had no meeting at my office.”

At a news conference at 3.30 p.m. at the Kapok Hotel, St Clair, yesterday, Ramkhelawan said his resignations were a mere “coincidence” to Ramlogan’s earlier statements at the post-Cabinet briefing at 2 p.m.

Ramlogan said he had referred the matter, which was investigated by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), on behalf of the Ministry of Finance, to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the acting Commissioner of Police, “for them to investigate this matter, with a view to laying charges against person or persons for breaches of the Securities Act or conspiracy to defraud”.

Ramkhelawan submitted his resignation letter to President Anthony Carmona at 10.15 a.m. and his resignation to TTSE at 1 p.m. yesterday.

In a press statement, Carmona said he accep­ted the voluntary resignation of Ramkhelawan.

“His Excellency, in a letter dated April 10, 2014, to Mr Ramkhelawan, has expressed his deep appreciation to Mr Ramkhelawan for services rendered to the Parliament and, by extension, the people of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in his capacity as an Independent senator,” it stated.

In a statement yesterday, the Stock Exchange said Ramkhelawan resigned with “immediate effect” and deputy chairman Peter Clarke will preside at TTSE meetings until the first board meeting, following the annual meeting of shareholders on May 8.

There have been several calls for Ramkhelawan to step down from the offices he held because of the possible conflict of interest it presented in the investigation into the share transaction—he was the broker of a transaction being investigated by TTSE and SEC and he was the chairman of TTSE.

In a report to TTSE by SEC, following the share transactions, it had noted Ramkhelawan was “not independent, which is not in accordance with principles and best practice. He (Mr Ramkhelawan) is the principal of Bourse Securities Ltd, one of the TTSE member firms, and also has an interest in one of the listed securities on the exchange. In addition, he is also a politically exposed person (PEP), having served as an Independent senator and a past member of a joint select committee of the Parliament.”

Ramkhelawan said he was not swayed by the calls for him to step down because his parliamentary colleagues did not raise the issue with him. His last senatorial contribution to Parliament was on Tuesday, during the debate on the Finance Bill.

Instead, Ramkhelawan explained that as the most senior of the Independent senators, he did not want his senatorial position to become enmeshed in any legal action which he might have to take on behalf of himself or his company.

And while he maintains the offices were not compromised during his stewardship, he insists the integrity of the offices should not be enmeshed in his private matters.

He was optimistic that at the right time, he would be vindicated and could continue his work in the public service.

Ramkhelawan maintained there continues to be speculation, misinformation, mischief and misreporting about his company’s role in the transaction.

And while his resignation is “an extremely difficult thing”, he now intends to concentrate on Bourse Securities until its name is properly cleared.

Questioned on whether clients have raised concerns, Ramkhelawan said: “There is a level of concern but Bourse’s reputation remains pristine.”

He insisted he could not divulge client information because it would not augur well for continued business at Bourse.

He said he has complied with the request by SEC on all the documents which it requested, but since February 28, there have been no further requests for information.

Asked whether Imtiaz Rahaman would main­tain his position as chairman of Bourse, Ramkhelawan explained the Bourse board was clear on the facts of the matter, and the accusation and allegations against Imtiaz would have to be studied.

Shareholder activist Peter Permell said yesterday Ramkhelawan did the “honourable” thing.

“This comes as no surprise to me as someone who has been following this issue from the beginning. In fact, based on the cogent and compelling evidence unearthed by yours truly, the media and others thus far, it was an inescapable outcome,” he said.

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