Wade Mark

‘connect the dots’: Opposition Senator

Wade Mark at the sitting of the Senate held at the Red House, Port of Spain yesterday.

Opposition Senator Wade Mark has called for a forensic enquiry into moves by a Canadian company, Alignvest, to take control of the traditional insurance portfolios of CLICO and British American Trinidad (BAT), which he said were valued at US$1.2 billion.

Mark was speaking on the Insurance (Amendment) Bill, 2019 at the Senate sitting at the Red House yesterday. The bill, he said, will pave the way for the takeover.

According to Mark, Alignvest “came on the scene” and was formed in Ontario, Canada, and then it purchased Sagicor.

In December last year, Alignvest concluded the arrangement in which all of Sagicor’s 306.55 million shares, which were listed on the T&T, Barbados and London stock exchanges, were exchanged for 68.9 million shares listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

It is estimated that shareholders of the ‘old’ Sagicor own about 47 per cent of the new company and constitute the largest single block of shareholders. The other major shareholder of the ‘new’ entity, which is called Sagicor Financial Company, is Jamaican financial services group JMMB, which owns about 22 per cent of Sagicor after making an investment of US$250 million.

Mark said Alignvest raised money in Canada and paid the Sagicor shareholders about US$536 million in cash and shares. “So Sagicor like CLICO is no more in Barbados, we have lost Sagicor and what we have is a front....Alignvest,” he said.

Mark said Finance Minister Colm Imbert has a duty to explain all to the country as the senator claimed he had “evidence” but he did not intend to expose it yesterday.

“But Madame President when you hear the players involved. Republic Bank is part of it you know...if you hear the big players involved in this move to take control of this economy it will send chills up your spine,” he said.

Mark said the Parliament is being asked to deal with amendments that will “consummate” the move by Alignvest to acquire the CLICO portfolio.

“A sales and purchase agreement has already been signed between the Central Bank and Sagicor/Alignvest and it will take them months if not a year or two to make the schemes of transfer real,” he said.

“What we are debating today will now make the framework and the passageway for a foreign company called Alignvest to take control of our local CLICO policyholder portfolio,” he added.

Sagicor, he said, is known as a 180-year-old company out of Barbados but this “new Sagicor” is not the same – it is now a “fly by night” company with foreign players.

“I think the time has come for us to have a forensic criminal enquiry into this matter, Madame President. I don’t have the resources but I believe that when you connect the dots a fellah named Michael Lee-Chin out of Jamaica, who is a big billionaire with Canadian citizenship, when you connect the dots I believe that this man is behind Alignvest,” said Mark.

The decision by the Central Bank, which controls CLICO and BAT, to sign the sales agreement for the traditional portfolios of the insurance companies is being challenged in a judicial review action brought by Maritime Life, which was on the short list to acquire the portfolios.

Only on Friday, a group of CL Financial shareholders issued a pre-action protocol letter to Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert, Governor of the Central Bank, Alvin Hilaire, and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi threatening legal action to stop the sale of the CLICO portfolio to Sagicor. Those shareholders also want the Central Bank to relinquish control of CLICO.

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