Delayed justice is a national joke

By Raffique Shah
June 12, 2011

Raffique ShahCIVIL lawsuits filed by the Central Bank last week against two of the most senior CL Financial directors, elicited scepticism across the country. Lawrence Duprey and Andre Monteil may now face the courts and answer wide-ranging allegations, from fiduciary irresponsibility to misappropriation of funds. The matters are now sub judice, so we cannot discuss them here, or anywhere else in the public domain.

I should declare that I was an ardent supporter of Duprey when he took CL into the energy sector. For far too long before he did, the local private sector was timid when it came to investing in the country’s downstream energy industries. They were experts at buying-and-re-selling consumer goods and services. But real entrepreneurship was beyond them. Duprey’s plunge into methanol, his subsequent expansion of MHTL into the biggest industrial conglomerate, was a most welcome initiative.

Duprey also expanded CL’s investments in the global alcohol market, making some strategic investments abroad (and other questionable ones!). As a consequence, Angostura, for all its problems, remains the region’s premier brand. He also dabbled in the region’s financial institutions—Greek for simpletons like me.

Somewhere along the line he went off-track, maybe even lost his way. I don’t know the details, so I cannot comment. I can say only that if he did wrong, if those around him misled Clico policyholders and depositors to the tune of billions of dollars, then they must be made to pay for their sins.

Which brings me to a real challenge here: how long will it take for justice to be served in this matter? The dictum “justice delayed is justice denied” does not apply in Trinidad and Tobago. I recall when Ivor Archie became Chief Justice, he vowed to speed up the judicial process. It was a daunting challenge. There were tens of thousands of matters before the magistrates’ courts, thousands before the high courts, and hundreds listed in the Court of Appeals.

To date, there has been little progress in the nation’s judicial system. Criminal matters, which are usually given priority because of their nature, take forever to be determined. In recent times, judges have set free persons found guilty of offences as serious as manslaughter because of the number of years they spent behind bars as they awaited their day in court.

When the State wants to speed up matters, it has proved that it can. If I hark back to the 1970 mutiny trials, it took all of 27 months between the arrests of 80-odd soldiers, and when our matters were finally determined at the Privy Council. There was one preliminary inquiry into charges of treason (that charge was eventually withdrawn by the State), three courts martial, one appellate hearing, and the Privy Council decision. When one is in jail, a day seems like a long time. So 27 months for us seemed to be a lifetime. But we knew that our imprisonment was not inordinately long given the number of persons charged and the number of charges we faced.

While we were still in prison, the notorious Abdul Malik and his associates were arrested for multiple murders. Within two years, Malik and his gang of cutthroats went through a preliminary inquiry, a trial before the legendary Justice Evan Rees, appeals—and they were hanged. Ditto for Dole Chadee and his gang in the mid-1990s. They went from being arrested for murdering the Baboolal family, to crude graves at Golden Grove, in short order.

In stark contrast, first arrests in the Piarco Airport scandals took place some ten years ago. Within a year, almost 20 persons were charged with related offences. Not one matter has been determined to date. True, the accused have employed every legal option available to them, sometimes repeatedly. But what accounts for these matters taking more than a decade to come to closure? It is unfair to the accused, to the judges who must hear and re-hear them ad infinitum, and to the public, who expect justice to be dispensed within a reasonable time.

Now that initial proceedings may soon begin in the country’s biggest financial scandal in history, is it any wonder people remain very sceptical over the matter? People are laughing over the fact that it took the Central Bank 30 months to lay charges in the first instance. True, the Bank could do nothing until its forensic audit of CL’s complex operations was completed. But 30 months?

Clearly, too, while Duprey and Monteil were among the most senior CL directors when the meltdown happened, they would hardly have been the only persons culpable—assuming they are found to be responsible for the fiasco. While policyholders and depositors are seeking to retrieve their money, taxpayers, too, have an interest in the outcome of this matter.

After all, some $7 billion in public funds were allocated to CL to save the conglomerate from collapse. No one knows how much of that has been used thus far. But public sector workers, who are being offered five per cent increase over three years, must wonder if the CL bailout did not lead to the paltry offer made to them by Government.

As for criminal charges arising out of the affair, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said that was in the hands of the DPP. Roger Gaspard said he was not pursuing the matter—investigations must be conducted by the police. It seems that we are heading for another decades-long, inconclusive court drama.

2 thoughts on “Delayed justice is a national joke”

  1. I pray that I would not lose faith in the justice system of my country of birth, and as such, take matters into my own hands when it comes to my investment in CLICO, which belly-upped less than two weeks after I invested a six figure sum because of a misplaced loyalty to my country.
    I took the government guarantee at the bottom of the documents at face value. In the US it would have ment something. I am waiting to see if the paper it was written on is worth more.
    Now when I get into a killer rage, it is not because of something a person would have done to me. I use my mother’s saying “Leave them to God, child, leave them to God.” When someone tries to take bread out of the mouths of those who, by bonds of affection and blood, are entitled to lean on me for support, well that is a horse of another colour entirely.

    In my mind’s eye, is a carnivalesque picture, in which Duprey, whom I have nicknamed the bullfrog, for he looks so much like one, is arrested, and turned over to the people, in handcuffs and shackles like those Bernie Madoff and Mark Stanford had to wear to court.
    The people put him into an oversized boxcart, specially built for his girth, and trundle him down Frederick Street, across the Promenade and up to the doors of the Central Bank.
    Along the way, those he decieved and stole from are allowed to pelt his seated figure with rotten melongenes, pumpkins, overipe bananas, tomatoes and rotten fish as well as eggs. tar, spitballs, urine and filth are also allowed in small quantities. Everyone gets only one aim at him. Nothing to buss his head open is used, only things that speak of contempt. At the entrance to the Central Bank Towers,the people pushing his boxcart stop. A metal sheeting six feet wide and eight feet tall has been erected. It is there that he faces a firing squad of six police, six army and six coastguard sharpshooters. He is not blindfolded for this as the people have decreed that he must see his fate.The shooters are covered in masks. At the signal they all fire at the white square placed over his chest, and his heavy body jumps and vibrates at the penetration of bullets into that black heart. Slowly, he buckles at the knees, but the ropes that bind him do not allow his body to hit the ground.

    By day’s end, all signs of his demise are wiped away. His properties, the profits of crime and mismanagement, are sold and the money put into a fund to pay depositors. Unlike people hanged at Golden Grove, his body is turned over to his family to dispose of.The state saves the cost of a gravedigger at the prison.

    This is Trinidad, not China. He will probably get the Order of Trinidad and Tobago for his smartmanship.

  2. Mr. Lawrence Duprey is the wisest businessman that TnT ever produced. He had the previous governments under his control and he must have given away a good deal of the rich peoples money to those with power to keep then on line. He knew the laws of the country and his entrepreunerial expertise he knew the people would go for more returns than the banks were offering. So, he was able with his highly paid honchos to convince any investors that they will get returns for their investments. Imagine investing six figures without knowing exactly how the man will pay back. So, we should not hang him as a bobolee at Eric Williams University Square but instead give the Order of TnT. Some keeps mentioning that a sucker is born every minute. So, the greedy investors must take their loses. Did the honchos in
    Clico paid any income taxes or it was written off as expenses.

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