Finsac debtors demand meeting with Phillips

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, December 21, 2012

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THE Association of Finsac'd Entrepreneurs (AFE) yesterday appealed to Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Peter Phillips to meet with its members to discuss the future of the Finsac Commission of Enquiry.


"We would like to have a meeting with Dr Phillips to have the matter resolved," AFE President Yola Gray Baker told a press conference at the Medallion Hall Hotel in Kingston.


She said that how the debtors have been treated was a "travesty of justice".


"It was a conspiracy with malicious and envious motives and intentions of those who think they hold the ultimate power," she added, asking Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to ensure full disclosure of the findings.


"Mrs Simpson Miller claims to love the poor. Love is not supposed to hurt, Mrs Simpson Miller," she said, referring to a line in the Bible from 1 John 3:18, which reads, "Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."


Gray Baker said that AFE members were convinced that there was a conspiracy to prevent the report of the Commission from being completed and published.


Asked for reasons, she said that the AFE felt that publication of the report could trigger criminal investigations against Government and financial sector personnel.


She alleged that information available to the AFE showed that the Money Lending Act was breached when the decision was made to exempt the Jamaican Redevelopment Foundation (JRF) — the company formed by the late American investor Dennis Joslin to handle the Finsac bad debts in 2002 -- from the provisions of the Act.


The AFE is claiming that none of the exemption provisions in the Act, under section 13 and 14, applied to the JRF or any of Joslin's companies involved with the procedure of taking over the loans.


In addition, Gray Baker noted that there was an admission on the part of the Government that "criminal irregularities" were identified in the operation of some institutions taken over by the State after the crisis.


She said that the AFE had evidence, for example, that land titles owned by Finsac debtors were used by bank employees to obtain personal loans, without the knowledge of the debtors.


She said that, in addition, the management of Finsac Limited was advised against communicating with the debtors and, therefore, no information was made available to them about the condition of their loan agreements.


"To this day, nobody knows how they came up with the figures that were made public during the enquiry. In one case $126 million was added to a loan, which had been obtained by one debtor without his knowledge of it," she insisted.


She said that by closing down the banks and denying customers access to their deposits or information on their loans, the Ministry of Finance breached the banking arrangements, and this has been evident throughout the Finsac process.


"The only way we can resolve this issue is for the process to be completed and the report done and the findings and recommendations discussed and addressed," Gray Baker said.


Yesterday's press conference was the latest attempt by the AFE to bring closure to the issue of their losses from the mid-1990s financial meltdown, which led to the Government's decision to create Finsac to handle the resulting bad debts.


Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Peter Phillips said in June that, after spending over $65 million on the enquiry, with bills still outstanding for rental and other costs, the only funds that will be made available in the future will be to pay a stenographer to type the report.



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