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Bogle says hearings dragged out by absent witnesses, lawyers

Published:Friday | March 25, 2011 | 3:00 AM
Worrick Bogle (second right), chairman of the FINSAC enquiry, consults with Fernando Deperalto (standing), secretary of the commission, and Commissioner Charles Ross, at the February 22, 2011 sitting of the FINSAC Commission of Enquiry, held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston. Commissioner Henderson Downer is at right. - File

Dionne Rose, Business Reporter

An absence of witnesses scheduled to testify and at times the conflicting schedules of lawyers are negatively impacting the proceedings of the FINSAC enquiry.

Although the three Commis-sioners and support staff, as well as lawyers turned up for Wednesday's sitting at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, the hearing was cancelled because Albert Jonas, the sole witness scheduled to testify, sent a message that he was unable to attend.

Commission chairman Worrick Bogle said such non-appearances - including attorneys who have other cases in the Supreme Court - have pushed the hearings beyond the original time frame.

"We are hoping to complete the public hearings by April," Bogle told the Financial Gleaner. "We should have ended in September last year, but a majority of the time the Commission did not sit."

Bogle, an accountant, is the replacement chairman of the commission, appointed after the Supreme Court granted an injunction stopping the enquiry early last year.

Four claimants, including former Finance Minister Omar Davies, had filed a motion claiming that former chairman Justice Boyd Carey was a member of a family business - Bev Carey and Associates - which had a debt with FINSAC and, therefore, had a conflict of interest.

The claimants, through their lawyers, asked Justice Carey to step down, but he refused and later issued a statement in which he said he had had no debt with FINSAC.

The Supreme Court eventually barred Justice Carey from sitting as a member of the commission, but this resulted in the hearings being suspended for some eight to nine months. Bogle was then named the new chairman of the reconfigured tribunal, whose other commissioners are investment manager Charles Ross and retired justice Henderson Downer, and secretary Fernando Deperalto.

"We have to see how we can speed up the process and put a time limit on when it can be finished," he said. "We are willing to sit Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, but it depends on the attorneys."

The chairman said there were about four additional 'FINSACed' witnesses - persons whose assets were taken over by the bailout company - scheduled to appear before the commission, some of who had decided to come forward late in the proceedings.

Elon Beckford, head of the now defunct Horizon Group comprising Horizon Merchant Bank, Horizon Building Society and Horizon Securities, appeared Thursday.

Other past officials of financial institutions on the witness list include Ralph Michael 'Jim' Parkes, former president of Jamaica Mutual Life Assurance Society; Jeffrey Cobham, former managing director of National Commercial Bank; Paul Chen-Young, former chairman of the failed Eagle Group of Companies, who is expected to appear before the commissioner via a video link sometime next week, possibly March 30; and Don Crawford, who said in a letter to The Gleaner that he is looking forward to the "opportunity of making further full and truthful disclosures under oath", but no date has been given for his appearance before the enquiry.

Patrick Hylton, former managing director of FINSAC and now group managing director of bailed-out bank NCB, is also scheduled to appear.

Finance Minister Audley Shaw established the Commission of Enquiry in 2009 to examine the operations of FINSAC and to determine if delinquent borrowers, whose assets were confiscated, were treated fairly.

dionne.rose@gleanerjm.com