Former ABIB directors could face civil action

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By Orville Williams

Civil cases could be brought against the former directors of the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Bank (ABIB), after a consensus was reached in Cabinet.

As part of the civil action, the directors, who oversaw the failure of the bank in 2012, could be made to hand over assets acquired during their time in charge, if it is found that they were purchased with funds that were transferred unlawfully, or without meaningful security.

The Cabinet is of the view that this was indeed the case and is looking forward to gaining control of the assets, as part of an effort to reduce the government’s liabilities after playing a significant role in the bank’s resolution. This role refers to an intervention valued at over $300 million.

Information Minister, Melford Nicholas, shared details of the considerations being made during the post-Cabinet press briefing yesterday.

“The government, in the resolution of the ABI Bank, (has)

had to raise funds to be able to deal with the resolution of the bank. For that, we had to put up a bond – and we are servicing that bond at the moment,” Nicholas explained.

“It transpires that much of the funding of several projects within the ABI banking operation have resulted in some residual assets that are lying around, including some lands and some other commercial properties.”

He then made the correlation between the government’s push to acquire those assets and the servicing of the “bailout bond”.

“The fact remains that if the government is to be responsible for servicing the bond, then clearly, the government should have access to those assets, to be able to compensate it for stepping into the breach. It would not be appropriate that the government should carry the losses and the directors themselves, who were in various types of breaches, should still walk away with the material wealth,” Nicholas said.

The Attorney General has been instructed by the Cabinet to begin considerations for civil action, depending on the evidence found in a forensic examination of the bank’s records.

Additionally, Nicholas said that while there is an urgent need to acquire the relevant assets, he does not foresee the government bringing criminal charges against the individuals.

“I don’t think that there is any intention of the government to pursue criminal ends – that anyone should go to jail – although some of those prescriptions are in law.”

“Clearly, the whole idea is to ensure that the government receives adequate compensation for its losses in bearing the costs of the resolution,” he added.

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