UNC wants details on MHIL sale to Proman

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

OPPOSITION Senator Wade Mark is warning of a major counterfeit currency racket in TT. – File photo

OPPOSITION Senator Wade Mark is warning of a major counterfeit currency racket in TT.

He is also calling for details on the proposed sale of Clico shareholding in Methanol Holdings (International) Ltd (MHIL) to the Proman Group.

Mark spoke on the two issues at the UNC’s media briefing on Sunday.

On the first, he said there was a major counterfeit racket in TT which was also affecting local commercial banks as customers have reported receiving counterfeit money from these institutions.

“This is a serious matter.” Mark accused the Government of staying silent on the issue.

He also called on the Central Bank and the police to intervene since, he said, millions were spent on the new polymer notes as a move to combat money laundering and other illicit activities.

In 2020, Finance Minister Colm Imbert rubbished reports that counterfeit polymer $100 notes were in circulation for months. He said counterfeiting was a regular occurrence all over the world.

“People always try to counterfeit money. They counterfeited the old bills and in the future, they will try to counterfeit the new bills.

“The good thing is that the new bills have far more security features than the old bills and are far more difficult to counterfeit,” he said at the time.

Also on Sunday, Mark called for details on the sale to Consolidated Energy Ltd, a subsidiary of Switzerald-based Proman.

“We were shocked”

Mark claimed the lucrative assets were sold at an undervalued price. He also alleged the valuation of the shares was flawed.

“The valuations did not come to the Parliament. Somebody has to account. Where is this valuation report?”

He said there was no evidence the shares were sold at a premium price.

“If you had valuable interest in a valuable company you should get a premium price for your share. There is no evidence of that.”

He called on the Government and Clico to provide answers. Mark also demanded certain documents be made public for the public to “better understand what took place with the 56.53 per cent shareholding.

Those documents are the shareholders’ agreement; a copy of the sale and purchase agreement, a copy of the valuation agreement; the valuation report; transfer forms involved in the sale between corporation-sole and Clico, CEL and Clico as well as a contempt of court order.

Mark said MHIL – the methanol producer based in Oman – had a 25-year natural gas contract while methanol prices “went through the roof” after Russia invaded Ukraine.

“Yet, $2.6 billion went to $2.2 billion,” Mark said of the worth of the shares, alleging there was a “massive conspiracy” to undervalue the Clico shares.

On January 23, Imbert gave details of the sale in the Parliament. He said the Government owns 49 per cent of Clico’s shareholding while the liquidator of its parent company, CL Financial Ltd, owns the remaining 51 per cent.

“The decision to dispose of the shares was the decision of the shareholders,” Imbert said. He said the job of the liquidator was to recover the $30 billion the Government used to bail out CL Financial in 2009.

Of that figure, Clico initially owed the Government $18 billion, but in December, had paid around $17 billion, leaving a little more than $1 billion still outstanding. He said Clico had been trying to dispose of the MHIL shares for about a decade to fulfil its obligation to repay the Government.

He spoke of the previous attempts to sell the shares and the threats of legal action, adding, “Sometime around September, October, November (2023), CEL came forward and said: ‘Look alright, we now ready to buy the shares at the valuation price’, which is what they had refused to do for 12 years. As a result, the shareholders’ agreement kicked in and they have paid $2.4 billion for the shares. That’s it,” Imbert said.