KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb. 11, IWN — On Jan. 30, when the Financial Services Authority informed Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves that it was taking over the Building & Loan Association, he asked them for two days.
“… I said to them, ‘I need two days or so to line up my ducks to make sure we have support systems,’” Gonsalves revealed on Monday.
“I contacted the government of the Central Bank, I wrote him subsequently, and have on standby at the Central Bank $15 million just in case I need any support for Building & Loan,” Gonsalves said on WE FM’s “Shake-up,” adding, “I don’t’ think I would [need the $15 million]”.
Gonsalves said he also contacted Timothy Antoine, a member of the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, who advises him on matters relating to the failed insurance companies, BAICO and CLICO.”
During a run on the BLA in 2009, depositors withdrew $10 million, Gonsalves said.
The amount withdrawn during a run in January 2013 has not yet been made public.
Gonsalves said the BLA has $12 million invested in BAICO and with money expected to come from Trinidad, he asked Antoine to put in the report that BLA would be a preferred, “to see if I can recoup some of that money for them”.
He further said he told, Sharda Bollers, executive director of the FSA, that when she examines BLA’s balance sheet, she will see that BLA owes the government $6 million for interest levy.
Gonsalves said he instructed Bollers to “find any legal way you wish” to be able to transfer the $6 million, which BLA owes the government into an investment into the BLA.
“So, right away, the capital base of Building & Loan improves by $6 million. And I say, ‘For that investment, we (the government) need no say, absolutely no say at all inside of the institution. All I need for them is to tell me what legal instrument they want me to do it,” Gonsalves further said Monday, added that he had informed the Cabinet of the development.
“So, while they are there making mischief, you notice what I have done …” he said in reference to the opposition New Democratic Party.
“I want the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines to know what this government is doing, what FSA is doing. … They are acting as an independent authority.
“… you have some eternal failures, accomplished and eternal failures, said that Ralph wants to put his hand on money there (BLA),” Gonsalves said of his critics.
“You notice it is the opposite — that I mobilising money from elsewhere to help the Building & Loan. And now, when I continue to help, they can’t say that Ralph is helping because his family has big money in it…” Gonsalves said.
He was speaking after Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace disclosed separately on Monday that Gonsalves’ relatives withdrew some $1 million from BLA while it was under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance, which Gonsalves also heads.
Gonsalves said he is taking steps to help the BLA in the same way that he did with BAICO, CLICO, and the former National Commercial Bank.
“In a way, it is a good thing that none of my family members have big money in Building & Loan now. Because, if I get government money to shore it up if it has any difficulties, they will say that I am trying to protect my family’s money,” Gonsalves said.