Something is very wrong with the move by Finance Minister Colm Imbert to approve a loan guarantee of US$5 million to a private company called Grand Bay Paper Products Limited, through the EXIM Bank, and given the issues arising from the Panama Papers stories, this requires urgent investigation.
Speaking in the debate on the Mid-Year Review of the 2016 Budget in Parliament Friday, Leader of the Opposition, Kamla Persad-Bissessar said: “After reading the Panama Papers story this Grand Bay loan guarantee worried me because you see the same pattern with the off shore companies.”
Persad-Bissessar revealed to Parliament that a review of the company’s documents showed that Grand Bay is owned by a St Lucian company, and Grand Bay’s Directors are non-citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
“What is interesting is that the Directors of Grand Bay all appear to be non-citizens. What is even more curious is the interlocking with another company called Trinidad Tissue. But the shareholders of Trinidad Tissue; do you know who they are? The same St Lucia based Grand Bay!”
Pointing to Grand Bay’s current outstanding liabilities in excess of US$54.5 million, Persad-Bissessar said: “Government is going to guarantee a US dollar loan for a private company. That is what the Government is saying to us. And then they could pay it back in TT dollars.”
“We intend to investigate this matter. What are the criteria for the guarantee? When last has the Government done something like this? I do not recall any time in our years where we guaranteed a loan for a private company.”
“Grand Bay has debts of over US$54 million. That debt didn’t happen today or yesterday, they have borrowed from the IFC, RBTT; they borrowed from First Citizens Bank…all of this is available in the company’s registry. Three different set of loans and each time they seemed to be falling into insolvency they went to get another loan. The Minister is telling us that the EXIM Bank originally said no because they already owe so much money.”
Adding the Trinidad Tissue Limited is currently carrying separate debts of more than TT$37 million, the former Prime Minister pressed the Government: “What happens if they default on the loan. What does that mean? It means that the taxpayers of Trinidad and Tobago that will have to pay for it.”