The Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) says it will take the Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) government to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) regarding the non-payment of millions of US dollars linked to the collapse of Trinidad-based insurance companies CLICO and British American Insurance Company (BAICO) in 2009.
Chairman of the ECCU sub-committee on insurance, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, said the decision to take the Keith Rowley administration before the Port of Spain-based CCJ was taken over the weekend.
The ECCU groups the islands of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Prime Minister Browne said the meeting agreed unanimously to take the T&T government to court after three failed attempts to get them to pay the outstanding funds.
“…I suspect, knowing Keith (Rowley) he is not going to climb down, but at the same time we have a job to do to protect and promote the interest of the Eastern Caribbean Currency policy holders and stakeholders generally.
“So on the basis that all diplomatic efforts have failed then we now have to as a last resort engage legal counsels who will pursue the amount outstanding. I chaired the meeting of the sub-committee on insurance and the decision of the committee is for us to pursue legal action against the government of Trinidad and Tobago.
“So within the upcoming weeks we will be engaging legal counsel to get a further brief on our legal position and at the same time pursue the issue at the Caribbean Court of Justice in its Original Jurisdiction, Browne said.
The ECCU said that Trinidad and Tobago had made a commitment to pay US$100 million to its member countries, but only US$40 million was disbursed following the collapse of CL Financial, the owners of CLICO and British American Insurance Company (BAICO).
In October last year, a group of British American and CLICO policyholders in the Eastern Caribbean filed a lawsuit at the CCJ against the T&T government and Prime Minister Browne said that the ECCU decision to follow suit had been in the works for several years.
“For the last seven years we have been trying to engage Dr. Keith Rowley to have a sit down and to see how we could resolve the issue to even probably issue some bonds at a low interest rate…so it doesn’t affect the cash flows of Trinidad and Tobago.
“I have to tell you all of the efforts to engage Dr Rowley would have failed. The previous chairman (of the ECCU sub-committee) was Dr Ralph Gonsalves (Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines) and several years ago he contemplated taking this issue to court. “But we decided to press on with the hope that Dr Rowley would have engaged,” Browne said.
He said, however, that the latest decision to take the matter before the CCJ should not be viewed as a personal fight between himself and Prime Minister Rowley.
“No one should see this as a hostile position between myself and Prime Minister Rowley. I think we are still reasonably good friends, but we have a difference of opinion among the family and the only way to settle this is to take it to the Caribbean Court of Justice and that on the basis we are successful then Trinidad and Tobago will be forced to pay.
“Now the basis of this litigation, as I have said before, is based on the discriminatory act by Trinidad and Tobago in which they took care of their people and they left the Eastern Caribbean policyholders to hold the bag and you have to understand that these companies are limited liability companies and the assets they acquired monies from the Eastern Caribbean were utilised to acquire these assets,” Browne added.
Since taking over the chairmanship of the sub-committee on insurance in the ECCU last year, Browne has said that significant progress has been made in recovering some of the investments in CLICO made by residents of the Eastern Caribbean.
He noted for example that Barbados government has agreed to pay US$37 million for the real estate assets of CLICO International in Barbados, and for BAICO “we will be getting some US$9.2 million from the government of St Kitts for the Nevis Island Administration Fund.
(Daily Express, T&T)