The war of words between Opposition Leader Kamla Persad- Bissessar and Finance Minister Colm Imbert about the sale of Clico policies continues with Persad-Bissessar now claiming that since she first raised the issue in her Budget response last Friday, more allegations have surfaced.
Persad-Bissessar said yesterday that while she originally asked the minister whether or not the Central Bank’s preferred bidder offered a quarter of a billion dollars less than the winning bid, new information “coming at hand today alleges that the sum is actually three quarter of a billion dollars (750 million dollars).”
The Opposition Leader has called on Imbert “in the interest of transparency and accountability,” to tell the country if “this is true.”
She noted that when she made the initial statement last Friday, “the minister was so rattled by my demands for transparency on the sale of Clico/BAT assets, that he was busy refuting statements no one accused him of, while ignoring the very specific questions.”
Imbert issued an almost immediate statement last Friday refuting the claims made by the Opposition Leader that he had given written directions to the Central Bank to sell the traditional portfolio of insurance policies of the Colonial Life Insurance Company to a local insurance company, “thereby insinuating irregularity and wrongdoing on the part of the Minister.
The Leader of the Opposition also demanded that the minister disclose these alleged instructions. The allegation is false,” Imbert said through a media release issued by the Ministry of Finance.
In the release, Imbert said that contrary to the “false statements made by the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament,” he had “given no such directions to the Central Bank regarding the sale of the traditional portfolio of Clico policies, or any directions at all.
The Finance Minister insisted that all that was happening was that the Central Bank is continuing to exercise its powers under Part VA, Section 44D of the Central Bank Act with respect to managing the affairs of an insurance company that has been under its supervision for the last 10 years.
As a result, he said, there are no instructions to disclose with respect to this matter, because none exist.
Yesterday, Persad-Bissessar reiterated her call for the Finance Minister to divulge the extent of his role and his directions with respect to the Clico BAT assets.
She said if there is nothing to hide then there is no reason for the minister to avoid the question.
In addition, she called on the minister to answer “the three quarters of a billion-dollar question,” Persad-Bissessar said.
Reporter: Rosemarie Sant