Enquiry can’t touch Duprey

Lawrence Duprey
Lawrence Duprey

PORT OF SPAIN — Lawrence Duprey, former executive chairman of insurance giant, CL Financial, had said in his witness statement that he did nothing wrong.

However, he failed to appear yesterday at the Commission of Enquiry into CLICO to support this assertion of innocence.

And to add insult to injury, and in stark contrast to the other no-shows, Duprey would not be punished for flouting the commission’s subpoena.

However, criminal proceedings have been instituted against former CL Financial group finance director Andre Monteil for his refusal to attend yesterday’s hearing to give evidence.

Commission chairman Sir Anthony Colman yesterday explained that because Duprey did not reside in Trinidad and Tobago, “there is no power that I have to serve outside of the jurisdiction of the Trinidad courts, any witness summons on him in the United States, where he lives. Equally there is no facility for extraditing him on the grounds that he has failed to comply with the witness summons which has in fact been issued but because of his absence abroad, has not been served on him”.

“I have no remedy for dealing with this situation at all. There is nothing in the Commission of Enquiry Act which enables me to take any action against Mr Duprey. Whether people consider that is a defect in the act is basically a political issue and one which I do not presently comment.

“Accordingly Mr. Duprey will not be giving evidence,” Colman reported.

Colman noted that Duprey had given a witness statement some time ago and that would be given some attention in due course when he (Sir Anthony) writes his report.

Duprey presided over the fall of an empire that severely impacted on the Trinidad and Tobago economy. Over $21 billion of taxpayers’ money had to be pumped into CLICO as part of a rescue operation. The CL meltdown caused tremendous personal distress and many tales of woe were heard by the commission from persons whose life savings were put at risk.

Several of Duprey’s senior executives have been grilled and have found themselves humiliated before the commission. But Duprey has so far escaped scot-free.

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said yesterday the question of the extra-territory operation of any law is a delicate and sensitive matter.

Usually laws would apply within a defined jurisdiction that is limited by space, geography and domicile. He said if someone is a resident or citizen of any country, there needs to be some reciprocity and mutual legal assistance.

“So this is not a simple or easy matter. We cannot make laws that would govern a citizen or resident of the US who is living in the US,” he said.

Ramlogan said the criminal investigation announced by the Director of Public Prosecutions is proceeding apace.

“Should criminal charges be laid, I would not hesitate to request his extradition if the circumstances so warrant,” he said.

Told of this, Attorney General stressed that if Duprey steps foot on Trinidad and Tobago soil, since the summons was issued, and the police fail to detect his entry to facilitate service of the summons upon him, that would require some explanation by the police.

Duprey is in negotiations with the Government/Ministry of Finance for a new shareholder agreement. (The first Memorandum of Understanding was done in February 2009). The Central Bank under the People’s Partnership Agreement has also filed a civil suit against Duprey and Monteil.

On the issue of Monteil, Colman said the letter from Monteil’s attorney indicated that the list of questions which were served on Monteil last Monday, “plainly engaged his client’s constitutional and statutory rights, including the privilege against self-incrimination”.

“Those questions which do not directly engage the said privilege, manifestly call for answers which may be used by the prosecuting authority to guide a criminal investigation against our client and/or open lines of inquiry which may influence a charging decision in relation to him.

Accordingly, and having received advice as to the position in which he has been placed, our client has concluded that he has sufficient cause, not to attend … or to be required to go into the witness box and be required to answer any of the said 105 questions,” the letter stated.

Colman said he wanted to make it clear that the content of the ruling which he gave on April 18 (to have Monteil appear) was “unappealable” and “written in stone”. (Express)

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