(Trinidad Express) Business mogul Lawrence Duprey on Thursday made moves to stall the Commission of Enquiry into the collapse of financial conglomerate CL Financial, scheduled to kick off on Monday.
He claims that a lawsuit filed by the Central Bank, earlier this month, against him and other former company officials, will strain his legal resources as both proceedings will overlap.
A five-page document issued by the legal team representing the former CL Financial chairman was delivered to Commissioner Sir Anthony Coleman and all other interested parties to the proceedings on Thursday, requesting that the Enquiry be put off until the civil lawsuit between the Central Bank and Duprey was resolved.
The lawsuit alleges that Duprey and several other former company officials misapplied and misappropriated billions of dollars to the detriment of its policyholders and mutual fund investors.
Duprey’s legal team is expected to file its response to the Central Bank lawsuit by July 6.
In January 2009, under the former People’s National Movement administration, the Central Bank entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with CL Financial, the parent company of insurance giant CLICO, British American, and several other subsidiaries, to bailout the then insolvent company.
The debt has since accumulated to $7 billion and counting, with only investments of $75,000 and under being refunded. Other investors have taken court action to recover their funds.
Just three days before the official start of the Enquiry, Duprey’s legal team, attorneys Lionel Luckhoo, Andrew Mitchell QC and Rajiv Persad, said there would be a major overlap between the Enquiry and the civil lawsuit against Duprey.
Legal sources said that if the Enquiry is not voluntarily rescheduled Duprey’s legal team are prepared to head to High Court to seek an injunction blocking the proceedings.
The Enquiry, which had a procedural hearing in April, is scheduled to begin receiving evidence between Monday and July 8, at Winsure Building, Richmond Street, Port of Spain. The Enquiry was also appointed to investigate the collapse of the Hindu Credit Union.
Among the reasons for application of the stay was the duplication and overlap of the presentations in both cases.
“There are major issues of regulatory oversight that will need to be aired during the civil claim and that is likely that you (Commissioner) will have to look at these issues as well the possible high cost of the civil claim by the Central Bank,” the letter stated.
“Such duplication will prejudice the civil action,” the legal team noted.
Luckhoo noted that the Enquiry had no power to award financial compensation but could only make recommendations for future action.
He said the lawsuit initiated by the Central Bank “might have as a consequence a significant financial order against one or more of the parties”.
“It is essential that their resources are properly applied to the action where the risk is paramount,” he said.
The team also cited the wide coverage of the Enquiry as well as it being fodder for political mileage among their reasons for the application of stay to be accepted.
“The Commission of Enquiry concomitantly with the civil claim would be an abuse of the process of the judicial process in that there will be a substantial overlap of witnesses, information and the subject matter involved,” Luckhoo noted.
The letter went on to detail ten points and 23 sub-points all outlining reasons for staying the Enquiry.
“Given the wide publicity, any findings of the Commission of Enquiry are likely to be prejudicial to the fair trial of the civil claim and the appearance of the administration of justice,” he said.
Luckhoo noted the Attorney General Anand Ramlogan and “several other Government Ministers” have already called for “certain matters” be dealt with in this Enquiry and already publicly stated that those issues would be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
“As such this will impact on any fair criminal trial that might be in contemplation, requiring someone in the position of Mr Duprey to fight on three fronts,” he said.
“There has been several reports by a certain Government official that demonstrate the Government’s intention to use that Commission of Enquiry as part of the Government’s political campaign,” he said, adding that the Enquiry should avoid being “dragged” into that campaign.