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Falconer blasts Aubyn Hill's financial expertise

Published:Monday | June 1, 2015 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
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AN OFFICIAL of the Portia Simpson Miller-led administration has ripped into banker Aubyn Hill, saying he is not the financial expert he claims to be.

Minister with responsibility for information, Senator Sandrea Falconer, made the comment yesterday on Facebook in reaction to a report in The Sunday Gleaner on an order for Hill's NationGrowth Microfinance Limited to repay millions in loans.

Falconer told The Gleaner that she was speaking in her capacity as an investor, who lost millions of dollars.  

The Supreme Court last week ordered Hill's company to pay $46 million to the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) for failure to make payments on a 2009 loan.

Falconer said, in a clear reference to the ruling, that she was not surprised.

"NationGrowth has been poorly managed from day one ... presided over, of course, by Mr Aubyn Hill. All who trusted Mr Hill and invested in 2007 have had zero return on their investments," read the Facebook post.

She added that "many realise that he is a good talker and not the financial whiz he claims to be".

hope for repayment

Aloun Ndombet-Assamba, who was recently reconfirmed as Jamaica's high commissioner to London, responded to Falconer's post, saying she hopes investors in Hill's NationGrowth Micro-finance Limited "will get at least some of their money back".

But Hill, in a response to The Gleaner, is countering Falconer's assertions, arguing that NationGrowth started as the 2008 global recession hit, which resulted in a hostile economic environment.

"A start-up company takes a long time to get to a place where it is successful. What would have been surprising is if, during the long recession in Jamaica, NationGrowth had made a consistent profit to be able to pay dividends," said Hill.

"She's placing the responsibility for management on my shoulders. All I did was lead the board of directors. I was not running the institution. I was a non-executive chairman," he said.

record speaks for itself

Meanwhile, the banker and chairman of the Jamaica Labour Party's Economic Advisory Council is rejecting Falconer's claims that he is just a talker.

"My record in turning around NCB and elsewhere is strong enough. I don't need to defend that," stated Hill.

According to Supreme Court judge, Brian Sykes, Hill's company should pay because its defence to the lawsuit filed by the DBJ to recover the money has no real prospect of success.

Hill had stated in court documents that based on the terms of the 2009 agreement, any money owed to DBJ should be paid by the final borrowers and not his company.

His lawyers claimed that NationGrowth had difficulty collecting from the borrowers whose projects had failed.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com