BOB LINDQUIST FORENSIC LESSONS LEARNED #1
Written by Bob Lindquist
Forensic and investigative accountants must write a report with the assumption it will appear on the front page of a major newspaper. Strict adherence to and reliance upon phraseology such as ‘attorney work product’ or ‘privileged’ or ‘confidential information’ is most insufficient. At the same time we counsel them to be aware of their greatest enemy: personal bias. Objectivity is the key word from beginning to end. Otherwise when one’s findings are leaked into the public forum, it could prove most uncomfortable.
“Lindquist investigation reveals”
While insurance firm CLICO was caught up in a liquidity crisis in 2008, a top official at CL Financial (CLF) allegedly defrauded the insurance giant of prime assets for personal benefit.
The individual was aided by another executive from a Barbados-registered company. And even after the Government intervened and bailed out CLICO, another deal was made which cost CLICO millions.
These were some of the details unravelled in the forensic work done by forensic accountant Bob Lindquist commissioned by the Central Bank following the collapse of CLICO in January 2009.
The individuals and the multiple million-dollar transactions which they orchestrated are now the subject of a police probe which was launched last week. They are among three top officials from the CL Financial Group who the Sunday Express understands form the police investigations.
The criminal investigation against former CLICO officials and several corporate entities aligned to the collapsed insurance company was announced last week by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard.
While Lindquist’s forensic work exists, no official report was prepared from it and his work is not admissible evidence in a court of law. However, the Sunday Express learnt that Lindquist’s work, apart from having information to pursue civil proceedings, also has enough information to substantiate a criminal probe.
The Sunday Express has obtained a copy of Lindquist’s work, which centres around three specific transactions as at June 30, 2010. The work is primarily a chronology of events which were knitted together from documents and e-mails from CL Financial and CLICO. The Sunday Express understands that the Central Bank had commissioned Lindquist’s work into the affairs of CLICO and the documents are subject to professional privilege and public immunity.
Witness statements from several individuals — former corporate secretary Gita Sakal, former Group Financial Head Michael Carballo, former CLICO chief executive Karen Gardier and Methanol Holdings chief executive Rampersad Motilal — are cross-referenced throughout the Lindquist document, which posits a timeline of events leading up to the CLICO collapse and the transactions undertaken.
While the statements of both Motilal and Sakal bear “public immunity” in Lindquist’s work, both individuals have appeared before Colman’s Commission to address some of the issues. The financial statements and declarations of dividends are also used as exhibits.
At one point, Lindquist illustrates the complex corporate structure of CLF with a line graph.
Lindquist’s work focuses on four transactions, conducted from November 2008 to February 2009, which builds a case of fraud.
The transactions show how one top CLF official, aware of the financial constraints faced by CLICO, fraudulently obtained assets from the company and was ably abetted. It shows a contrived effort on the part of individuals, aided by their attorneys, in the setting up of Swiss companies in November 2008, before the bailout by the Government, to loot CLICO’s assets.
In one instance, US$2,800,000 from a CLICO subsidiary was paid to a Swiss company and not CLICO itself. That payment was used to acquire 337,800 shares from another CLICO subsidiary company without disclosure by CLICO and CLF. When a CLF executive questioned the transaction, the individual was told by a lawyer to “treat this with all of the required sensitivity”.
In another instance, an official claimed ownership of a subsidiary, with an estimated value of US$100 million, which was only held in his company’s beneficial interest “for tax efficiency” so subsequent dividends were paid to his Cayman registered-company.
In that instance, it resulted in a heated e-mail exchange between two CLF officials at the time — one argued that the shares were owned by CLF while the other insisted they belonged to him.
The e-mail trail of that incident, which was reproduced by Lindquist, incriminates the CLF official and surmised it as “theft”. Both officials exited the company before the issue of ownership was resolved.
Lindquist’s work also detailed the circumstances leading up to the undervalued sale of a prime CLICO energy asset in February 2009, which was described as being done “with indecent haste” and with no proper reason and in breach of the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.
Lindquist’s documents were used by the Central Bank in June 2011 to initiate a civil case against two former CLF executives. The Central Bank’s civil case centers on the mismanagement of CLICO, and misapplication and misappropriation of its income and assets to the detriment of its policyholders and mutual fund investors.