The Chairman of the United National Congress (UNC), Dr. David Lee categorically condemns the apparent victimisation of State-owned First Citizens Bank (FCB) by Finance Minister Colm Imbert in the wake of his sudden and ill-timed request for information from FCB.
This request comes on the heels of a major scandal involving the deposit of $93,000 in cash by a senior Government Minister whose explanation lacks conviction and credibility. The targeting of FCB and the request for info by the Finance Minister has the potential to undermine public confidence in FCB.
It is likely to inject fear, confusion and panic leading to a run on the bank.
FCB is an exceptional success story in terms of State-owned financial institution. The People’s Partnership Administration was careful to maintain an arms-length relationship with the bank to protect its independence and avoid perceptions of political interference that could affect the stability of the bank.
Instead of protecting his own, (in the same way the Attorney General appears to have protected Malcolm Jones by discontinuing a billion dollar case against him), Mr. Imbert should have instead reported Minister Robinson-Regis to the FIU because of the suspicious nature of her cash transaction.
Mrs. Regis’ story simply does not add up. It does not make any sense. Given the terrifying crime crisis, no one walks around with $93,000 in cash to deposit in a bank. Her story that she withdrew this money from her accounts at other banks is absurd and ridiculous. One would simply write a cheque or get a Manager’s cheque and deposit it into the relevant account with FCB.
It is inherently credible that a Government minister will walk around visiting various banks, withdrawing large sums of cash from different accounts so that they could make one large deposit into their account at FCB.
Mr. Imbert’s immediate reaction in his quest to protect his PNM colleague is reckless and irresponsible. It will hurt and damage FCB because it is bound to raise questions about political interference and the level of confidentiality. This will have a domino effect on stability of the financial sector as a whole as FCB occupies a critical position as the only State-owned bank.
We therefore call upon Mr. Imbert to desist from his covert attack on FCB and focus his attention on the real problem which is the suspicious financial transaction conducted by his Ministerial colleague.