The ex-minister is pilloried by the commission of enquiry into the Britam Kenya deal in 2018 in its recently published report. The leader of the Reform Party explains his role in that deal and tries to clear his name.
The Domah commission blames you for underselling the Britam Kenya shares to Peter Munga at Rs2.4 billion rather than the Rs 4.3 billion previously offered to the finance ministry. What is your stand on that?
The Rs4.3 billion offer from Britam Kenya never existed. There never was any formal document showing it and the report itself is contradictory about it. The offer was supposedly made to Vidianand Lutchmeeparsad (then permanent secretary of the finance ministry - e.d) in a meeting on November 18, 2015, in Kenya. But there is a big contradiction between what the latter and financial secretary Dev Manraj, told the commission about that supposed offer. Lutchmeeparsad says the Rs4.3 billion offer was made by Munga on that day, but then Manraj tells the commission in black and white that there is no document showing such an offer.
Talking about Manraj's testimony, the commission itself says, "there is no document to show that the Kenyans had made a 'firm offer' to buy the shares at MUR4.3 billion" (page 107 of the reported.). But the lie is revealed in Kenya cabinet secretary Henry Rotich's letter to Dev Manraj on December 11, 2015. "I wish to register my appreciation to you for agreeing to this request. My understanding is that the Board of Directors of Britam will need to make arrangements to have negotiations with the Government of Mauritius in order to agree on the suitable timeframe within which the sale will be effected as well as the sale price and payment terms. In this regard, the commitments from the negotiations will be formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Mauritius and Britam."
Why would Rotich say that the sale price had to be agreed on when supposedly an offer was already finalised by Lutchmeeparsad on November 18, 2015? Manraj being Lutchmeeparsad's superior. if the former said there was an offer of Rs 4.3 billion, why didn't the finance ministry take it and sell the shares there and then? If there was no offer on November 18, 2015, the raison d'être of the commission no longer exists. Where is any alleged document of any alleged offer from Munga? It simply does not exist! If there was no evidence of any Kenyan offer to buy it for Rs4.3 billion, this whole report collapses like a house of cards! Obviously, Domah just wanted to legitimise Lutchmeeparsad's version.
The commission still blames you for reaching the Rs2.4 billion figure.
On what authority could I have done that? According to the law, this was up to the special administrator. I never signed any agreement. The only thing the commission had to link me is a courtesy visit Munga paid me on November 14, 2015, but that was before Lutchmeeparsad's meeting with Munga on November 18, 2015, in Kenya and before Rotich's letter to Manraj on December 11, 2015. I don't know what happened at the finance ministry. In March 2016, Afsar Ebrahim, delegated by special administrator Yacoob Ramtoola and Gladys Karuri (Britam's finance directored.) met and produced the MoU. As minister, I only dealt with Ramtoola and the FSC, never with Munga or Ebrahim or any Kenyan. I had nothing to do with these negotiations, nor did I participate in them. This was the prerogative of the special administrator and he and the FSC had to keep me informed for me to report to cabinet, answer questions in parliament and the press because there was a deadline to pay SCBG policyholders Rs 4.1 billion on June 30, 2016. The then prime minister insisted that no public funds should be used. We honoured that commitment and paid that tranche. Nothing shows that I was involved in any negotiations and no such evidence has come before the commission, that's why I think that what Domah has done is in bad faith.
The commission has called for an investigation into your allegedly producing a fake document of the 'minutes' of the November 18, 2015 meeting to the commission. Did you do so?
During the commission of inquiry, it came out that Lutchmeeparsad, Sandeep Khapre (of BDO Kenya -ed.) and Peter Munga met on November 18, 2015, in Kenya, with Khapre taking notes of the meeting. When this was brought up at the commission, this was news to me as I did not know about it. Following the publication in the press of Lutchmeeparsad's notes produced at the commission, Akhilesh Deerpalsing asked Afsar Ebrahim (then at BDO Mauritius -ed.) a copy of the notes of the meeting. Ebrahim sent Deerpalsing BDO's notes by email and Deerpalsing produced Ebrahim's email and attached notes at the commission.
So, there were two versions of that document. Deerpalsing suggested to the commission that the police investigate and even stated he was going to lodge a police complaint to see which one was genuine, but Domah did not agree. Both documents seemed to emanate from Khapre, but Domah did not even convene Khapre, nor did he ensure that the special administrator who mandated Khapre brought the latter before the commission to explain his November 18, 2015 notes of meeting. How can he tell which one was forged and how could he just dump my name into it? There are two possibilities: either Lutchmeeparsad or BDO could have altered the document.
The commission talks about a bank account in the UAE and Munga coming to Mauritius in February 2017. Do you have an account in Dubai?
No, I don't and have never had any bank account in Dubai. I don't know why Domah has gone out of his way to include such nonsense. I was never presented with any of this when I testified, and they never raised these issues or asked me about them. Now I see them in the report! The commission said it got an anonymous tip. Have you ever seen a commission of inquiry, anywhere in the world, reaching such a speculative conclusion based only on an anonymous tip? This says it all about the mudslinging against me.
Copyright L'Express. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com)., source News Service English