Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 31st 2017 Contents DEREK ACHONG
The Clico Policyholders' Group is
questioning why the Samaan Grove
Development was excluded from
the Government's valuation of the
Buccoo Estate in Tobago, popularly
known as No Man's Land.
Speaking at a press conference at
Valpark Chinese Restaurant in Valsayn
yesterday, the group's chairman Peter
Permell produced a valuation report
for the controversial property, which
was commissioned from GA Farrell and
Associated Limited by Clico's board on
the instructions of the Central Bank.
The report, produced in June last
year, valued the 398.42 acres of land,
which was eventually transferred to
the Government in March this year, at
The controversial property is ear-
marked to be developed by regional
hotel company Sandals Resorts.
Permell admitted yesterday that the
figure corresponded to the valuation of
the 100 per cent of the common stock
of Occidental Investments Ltd and
Oceanic Properties Ltd, subsidiaries of
Clico, which owned the properties. Both
companies were acquired by the Gov-
ernment in order to transfer the land.
But he questioned why the valuation
specifically excluded the upscale Sa-
maan Grove Development which was
originally part of the estate before being
developed by Clico.
"I don't know why you would want
to exclude the Samaan Grove, which is
the most valuable portion of the estate,"
Asked if the development could have
been excluded by Government because
it had already been developed and sold
into leasehold properties and was not
transferred in the sale, Permell said he
did not know.
"That is a question that you have to
ask those in charge. I do not have the
information. I am just asking important
questions," Permell said.
Permell also pointed out that not-
withstanding the Government's in-
dependent valuation of the land and
the holding companies, Clico's parent
company CL Financial had valued both
at $187 million in its estimated financial
reports for last year. He explained that
CL Financial's valuation represented the
book value or cost price of the land and
did not consider appreciation.
"However you slice or dice it, $10
per square foot does not sound right.
I don't think that there is anywhere
in T&T where you can purchase land
at that rate," Permell said as he called
on Government to reverse the sale and
revalue the property.
He also noted that in its proposal to
Government earlier this year, titled Pro-
ject Rebirth, international auditing firm
PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC) valued
the estate at close to $867 million.
The report, which suggested that
CLF shareholders retake control of the
company and restructure its repayment
plan with Government, was eventually
rejected by the Ministry of Finance due
to questions over its viability.
The refusal was the basis of a move by
the shareholders to call an extraordinary
meeting earlier this month to retake
control of the company's board, which
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Where were CL Financial's
audited financial statements?
Government needs to explain
why the CL Financial board, which
it controlled, didn't provide audited
financial statements for eight years
as Government was required to pro-
vide under the 2009 agreement with
That was the call from former
People's National Movement (PNM)
minister of finance Mariano Browne,
as he spoke on the CLF issue yes-
Browne raised the query among
others he said need to be answered
on the CLF matter---especially fol-
lowing statements by Prime Minis-
ter Dr Keith Rowley on the issue last
Rowley spoke after Government
won its appeal against CLF majority
shareholders, obtaining the right to
have provisional liquidators at CLF.
Shareholders' attorneys will be filing
an appeal on this at Privy Council
level today, United Shareholders
Ltd's Carlton Reis said yesterday.
Browne, on another aspect, re-
sponded to last Friday's criticism
by the Finance Ministry on some of
the statements he made on the CLF
matter on radio last week.
Browne said, "I've noted the min-
istry's media release indicating the
time line I provided wasn't accurate.
The release states that the last exten-
sion to the shareholders' agreement
expired on August 31, 2016 and the
, Project Rebirth, was
only submitted by the shareholders
on January 6, 2017, over four months
"Therefore, the shareholders
didn't refuse to extend the agree-
ment because the Government
refused to respond to a plan from
the shareholders for repayment of
money owed by CL Financial."
He added: "I thank the ministry
for their prompt response and cor-
rection. For the benefit taxpayers
and for informed public discussion
on the CLF matter, I'd be grateful if
the ministry would, with the same
promptness, inform the national
public of several other aspects which
Some aspects arise from the Prime
Minister's complaint last week that
there had been "great difficulty" in
getting information about CLF's fi-
nancial position and there were "no
audited statements" of companies.
But Browne said the Memoran-
dum of Understanding agreement
between shareholders and Govern-
ment---on the 2009 bailout following
the collapse of CLF's CLICO subsid-
iary---had required CLF's board to
submit audited financial statements .
"And the board under the bailout
agreement was ---after the agree-
ment---controlled by Government,"
"So the Government needs to tell
taxpayers why CLF's board, which
it controlled, didn't provide audited
financial statements for eight years
as it was required to provide under
the MOU with shareholders."
Currently, Government's four di-
rectors on CLF's board are Dr Rolph
Balgobin (chairman), Kirby Anthony
Hosam, Terrence Bharath and Ingrid
Lashley. Shareholders' interests are
represented by Albert Tom Yew, Fre-
drick Gilkes and Trevor Marshall.
Browne added, "Government also
needs to explain whether sharehold-
ers gave the Government and any
of its appointees on the CLF board,
reasons for refusing to extend the
shareholder's agreement. If so---
what were those reasons?
"Taxpayers need to know as well,
whether the CLF debt has been
agreed or disputed by the sharehold-
ers and how long did the Government
take to respond to the Project Rebirth
Plan submitted by shareholders?"
He said the Finance Ministry also
needed confirm whether it has spent
$3.46 billion on professional advi-
sory fees on the CLICO matter, as
has been claimed,and how this ex-
penditure is made up.
"For accountability, taxpayers
must be told who the fees were paid
to, whether any adviser to Central
Bank or otherwise was paid any fees,
how much recipients were paid, for
how long---and what was the benefit
of these fees to taxpayers," Browne
"I trust the ministry would
promptly provide the relevant in-
formation in the public domain
to ensure taxpayers are informed
and that facts on this matter aren't
misrepresented by any Government
minister, present or past."
Former finance minister
Why no CLF statements?
Ex-finance minister to Govt
was under the majority control of
the Government since its bailout
of Clico in 2009.
The move was the catalyst of
Government's ongoing petition to
wind up the company as it seeks to
recoup the remaining $15 billion it
had invested in the bailout.
The shareholder's bid was aban-
doned after the Court of Appeal
agreed to appoint the provisional
liquidators last week. The pro-
visional liquidators have been
mandated to asses and ensure
the company's assets are not dis-
posed of pending the outcome of
The winding up petition, which
comes up for hearing before Justice
Kevin Ramcharan in September,
does not affect the sale of the es-
tate to Government, as the proper-
ty was held by its subsidiary Clico
and was legally transferred under
the authorisation of the Central
Bank, which took control of the
insurance giant after the bail-out.
Commenting on the issue at the
weekly post-Cabinet press confer-
ence, last week, Prime Minister Dr
Keith Rowley defended the move
Rowley said: "But it was said that
the lands we took in Tobago in lieu
of the debt and set off against the
debt might have been improperly
done and the value might not have
been established properly. Let me
today put that to rest," he said.
He went on: "The Government,
quite properly, through the rele-
vant authority in all of this, the
board set off the monies owed for
the value of those land. And the
value was established by reputable
independent valuators in Trinidad
and Tobago. And that is the value
at which the Government's debt
was reduced by virtue of the value
of this land."
Policyholders want answers
on Samaan Grove Development
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