Finance Minister Colm Imbert has dismissed claims that First Citizens’ Bank (FCB) was involved in a “growing Ponzi scheme” as described by Senator Wade Mark earlier this week.
On Wednesday during the Senate’s budget debate in Parliament, Imbert said the bank’s investment in Jamaican company, Barita, has proved to be successful and was a part of the bank’s strategy to diversify.
He said, “FCB is diversifying outside TT with the full support of the Government. FCB is seeking to make investments throughout the Caribbean, seeking to acquire banks throughout the Caribbean – in the northern Caribbean, in the southern Caribbean and even outside of the Caribbean – and we are encouraging it.
In Mark’s contribution to the budget debate in the Senate on Monday, he said FCB was recently involved in an investment with a paper company and called for an internal forensic audit into the sale of 10,869,565 of ordinary shares.
He also demanded the resignation of FCB’s CEO and board of directors if no audit took place.
Imbert countered, saying, companies’ growth required diversifying outside of the country, and pointed to Massy and Republic Bank Ltd’s investments in the region and globally.
He said FCB’s investment in Barita since 2019 has seen a gain in its investment to Barita of TT $130 million from an investment of $260 million and a dividend income of over five per cent.
“Since acquiring the shares between 2019 and 2020 the value of that portfolio has grown from TT $260 million to TT $390 million.
“If making TT $130 million on a $260 million is bad, then I don’t know what is good. That was just Senator Mark making one of his usual wild, groundless, baseless, scandalous, frivolous and useless allegations,” Imbert said.
He added that in order for economic growth, Caricom countries needed to invest more in each other and not be insular.
“If we cry down Trinidadian investment in Jamaica, it creates an atmosphere and anti-Trinidadian atmosphere like a former prime minister some years ago created such a bad relationship with Jamaica by saying that TT is not the ATM of the Caribbean.”