Caribbean shareholders want CLICO bailout from T&T

(Trinidad Guardian) Eight years after the Clico collapse, shareholders in Barbados, St Vincent and Grenada are now calling on the T&T Government to bail them out of the debacle.

But Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said yesterday that the last thing his Government intended to do was pay out any Caricom shareholder, since Clico’s future looks quite unsettled. In that regard, the PM gave the assurance that legal steps may be an option to protect the interest of our citizens.

This was one of the discussions that came up at the Caricom inter-sessional meeting in Grenada, which Rowley attended and spoke about yesterday at the Piarco International Airport when he returned home.

Rowley said while T&T has taken steps to financially bail out its citizens who were affected by Clico’s collapse, its shareholders in Barbados, St Vincent and Grenada are now calling on the Government to do the same for them. He said their arguments were based on the Chaguaramas Treaty that no Caricom country should favour its own citizens.

“I think they were bolstered by some agreements that date back to the Manning era which was supported by the Persad-Bissessar’s era, where certain commitments were made to pay certain monies and in fact, those agreements were cemented by payment of US$50 million in the promise of $100 million.” Rowley said, however, that the country was now being called upon to conclude those transactions.

“I did ask for a time to look at it a little closer in the context of the promises that were made, because Trinidad and Tobago will not renege on a country’s commitment to our Caricom colleague,” he said. The PM said the Government asked for the time so it could look at Clico’s current situation.

“I want to take this opportunity to tell the national community that there are some serious developments taking place with respect to this Clico matter and the last thing we can do now is to pay out money now to anybody about Clico, while we are engaged in a very serious matter with the Government’s protection of the national interest with respect to the monies paid out to Clico.”

He said people who had and continue to maintain Clico’s interest through their shareholders, have taken action with the expectation that they would succeed in expelling the Government from the board of Clico, even while T&T taxpayers have not recovered from the $20 billion that was paid out in the bailout plan.

“We are currently engaged in that matter. And against that background, at Caricom I told the claimants that we are not prepared at this time to entertain any further discussions on that matter at the level of Carciom, but we will talk to the country at a bilateral level.”

Rowley said they expect to talk to the three regional countries about the Clico liabilities. Under the last People’s Partnership administration, Rowley said a number of ministers beat their chests for settling the Clico matter.

“The matters are far from settling. The future looks quite unsettled. But along the way the Government of T&T will take all reasonable and legal steps to protect the interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”

He said a favourable memorandum of understanding was signed in the 2009 bailout, which allowed billions of taxpayers’ dollars to be injected into the privately-owned company.

“One thing that was not on that bailout was interest for that monies that were being paid to this private company. There was no provision for interest to accrue. But that was part of the arrangement.”

Over and above that, Rowley said they are now having an issue from the company’s shareholders who are “resolutely resisting a renewal of the memorandum of understanding under which taxpayers’ money went into that company.”

One requirement for that agreement, Rowley said, is that both parties must be in agreement.

“If the other party is not prepared, the Government by itself cannot agree. Those are some of the developments now. We will deal with them along the way. And we will deal with them effectively and forcefully in the interest of the taxpayers, whose billions (of dollars) have been used to support that company and its subsidiaries.”

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