Squabble over long-standing CLICO debt continues
Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda Gaston Browne says he is not satisfied with the response from his Trinidad & Tobago counterpart regarding the non-payment of compensation arising from the collapse of CLICO and British American Insurance Company in 2009, and would look to the courts to resolve the matter.
Browne, who is chairman of the subcommittee on insurance for the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, ECCU, had said last month that a decision had been made by the union to have the Caribbean Court of Justice, CCJ, adjudicate the matter.
The currency union groups the islands of Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts-Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent & the Grenadines.
Prime Minister Browne said he had written to Prime Minister Keith Rowley after an ECCU meeting had agreed unanimously to take the Trinidad government to court, after three failed attempts to get them to pay the outstanding funds.
Speaking on his radio programme last weekend in Antigua, Browne told listeners “his (Rowley’s) response is one that I think he has co-mingled a number of issues. Even some gratuitous payments that were made by the late Patrick Manning he has tried to include in a possible settlement”.
Manning was prime minister of Trinidad during the collapse of CLICO and its parent CL Financial.
“So I am about to respond to him to let him know that he is mistaken and that the issues he has raised in his letter, they certainly have no bearing to the case that we are pursuing,” Browne said, without disclosing the full content of Rowley’s correspondence.
The ECCU said Trinidad had made a commitment to pay US$100 million to the member countries, but only US$40 million was disbursed following the collapse of CL Financial, the owners of both CLICO and British American Insurance.
In October last year, a group of British American and CLICO policyholders in the Eastern Caribbean filed a lawsuit at the CCJ against the Trinidad & Tobago government over the issue. Browne said that the ECCU decision to follow suit had been in the works for several years.
“The case I am pursuing is a settlement that was agreed to, even before I became prime minister, of US$100 million. The government of Trinidad and Tobago paid US$40 million of it; US$60 million is still outstanding,” said Browne.
“We are saying we would like to have it paid, we would like to negotiate a reasonable payment that doesn’t create any strain on the treasury of the government of Trinidad and Tobago. So if bonds are to be given, then they will pay the interest over a period of time.”