A ‘lifeline’ has been handed British America Insurance Company (BAICO) policy holders in the Eastern Caribbean.
This with the news that an application for special leave was filed on July 13, 2021 with the Caribbean Court of Justice, in pursuance of what a team of legal luminaries says is a strong case against the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, aimed at recovering over EC$800 million that remain unpaid to over 7,500 policy holders, following the collapse of BAICO/CL Financial in 2009. No date has yet been set for the CCJ hearing.
“Today we are depending on you; we are seeking a partnership with you to right what has been in the eyes of policy holders of which I am one, an egregious injustice that’s been done to Eastern Caribbean policy holders,” said Dr Patrick Antoine President of BACOL while speaking at a virtual media conference, Monday 26th July, to provide an update on the proceedings.
“The extent of what is still outstanding to policy holders in the Eastern Caribbean is just over EC$800 million and we are talking about thousands of individual policy holders, and when you take on board the fact that many of the entities themselves have clients or members…then we are talking about a large section of the region,” he added.
BACOL leading the fight
Antoine leads the group BACOL, which was formed in Grenada in 2015 with the main objective of providing British American and CLICO policy holders with an opportunity to pool their energies/resources, in an effort to correct the injustice that had been meted out upon the collapse of both companies.
He said that the matter was significant to those within the Eastern Caribbean who would have invested, in some instances, large sums of money.
“It is a matter worth fighting for not only because there is an intention on our part that the gods will smile on us and that the court will find favour with our case in awarding us what is due as policy holders, but because our CARICOM civilization really depends on us standing and saying that this matter cannot go without private parties, such as policy holders, standing to affirm their right and asking the court to give as it were, an expression to what the Treaty promises,” Antoine expounded.
A strong case targets T&T
To assist in its claim before the CCJ and beyond, BACOL has secured the services of an experienced legal team, including Simon Davenport Q.C of the United Kingdom, who specialises in ‘heavy commercial disputes, civil fraud, in addition to other areas of commercial/business law.
Davenport, addressing the media conference, explained that following the collapse of CL Financial, the government of Trinidad and Tobago intervened to ensure that investors from that country were compensated.
According to Davenport, BACOL had a strong case and argued that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, by its partisan intervention, had breached the Treaty of Chaguaramas by failing to protect all investors.
He explained that all Trinidadian policy holders have recovered the full value of their investment while non-Trinidadian investors have managed to recover about 14 percent.
“The Trinidadian government declined to intervene to protect them (non-Trinidadian policy holders) saying British American (BAICO) was not regulated by the Trinidadian authorities,” Davenport explained.
CARICOM member states have pressed the Trinidadian Government for years to do more. It promised to pay a fraction of the moneys owed but has not bent entirely to either political pressure or moral persuasion, Davenport continued.
“And it has not recognized the legal rights, that is why action is necessary to restore those rights,” he asserted.
As such, the three complaints levelled against the Government of Trinidad and Tobago are: it rescued its customers but not non-Trinidadian customers; it actively harmed British American (BAICO) by ruling that the assets could only be used to CLICO and BAT (British American Trinidad); it attempted to justify its actions by the regulatory regime that only protected Trinidadian customers.
All those actions suggested that the clients from the Eastern Caribbean were discriminated against based on their nationality, which was a breach of Trinidad and Tobago’s Treaty of Chaguaramas obligations, Davenport reiterated.
The first step in advancing the case on behalf of Eastern Caribbean policy holders was to apply to the CCJ for special leave which, once granted, would allow for commencement of substantial legal proceedings on behalf of the group.
“At the CCJ hearing, anticipated to be a one-day hearing, BACOL will, in effect, ask the CCJ to agree that there is an arguable case and that our clients should be permitted to bring this claim,” Davenport said.