KINGSTON – Seasoned realtor, Lascelles Poyser, who has lost millions in properties since the 1990s meltdown, says that he still empathizes with colleagues who have either committed suicide, or have died from stress related ailments triggered by their losses.
“I can easily empathize with my colleagues who have committed suicides. I was told there were persons in a similar position as mine, with FINSAC and JRF, who have committed suicide, or died of stress related ailments,” Mr. Poyser told the FINSAC Commission of Enquiry on Tuesday March 15, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston.
Speaking about his personal experience, he told the Commissioners, “At this point, words are totally impossible to describe the state I was in; with three young children going to school in foreign lands, court cases against me by persons wanting their titles or their money back, taxes and death threats”.
Mr. Poyser, a former president of the Realtors Association of Jamaica and vice-president of the Resettlement of Returning Residents, left Jamaica for England at an early age. He studied salesmanship, was top salesman for a British life insurance company and a Canadian real estate company, and author/publisher of a book, “Black Inspiration (With Humour).
He said he decided to return to Jamaica in the 1970s, at the bidding of former Prime Minister Michael Manley. He started three local companies – New World Development Corporation, Clear View Eye Clinic and Morant Farms, which were doing very well until interest rates hit the roof in the 1990s and FINSAC, then the Jamaican Redevelopment Foundation Inc., took over his loans.
Mr. Poyser said that, although he has repaid over $100 million on loans totaling approximately $15 million he received in the mid-90s, he has been told he still owes some $113 million, with no evidence, up to now, of how this level of indebtedness was computed.
He said that between 2001 and 2003, he and his partners made tireless efforts to negotiate terms with FINSAC, which would allow them to settle their indebtedness and continue to operate, to no avail.
“FINSAC’s posture was characterized by either an outright failure to reply or, in some instances, very terse rejection of our proposals, without explanation or invitation to have further discussions,” he told the enquiry.
He said that after FINSAC sold his debts to the Texan Dennis Joslin, who established the Jamaican Redevelopment Foundation (JRF) Inc in 2002 to handle the debts, he tried to negotiate a 15% rebate but failed to get a response from JRF.
Mr. Poyser said that he was unable to secure financing to provide an undertaking demanded by JRF, as the debt grew to $71 million by September 25, 2006, with interest accruing at $33,000, daily. He was required to settle the amount in 10 days, but was unable to retrieve the titles to sub-divide and develop his company’s lots for sale.
“Thereafter, my pleas for generous accommodation from JRF were either expressly rejected or fell on deaf ears,” he said. However, he stated that, despite the challenges, he remained in Jamaica, determined to overcome them.
“I am a British citizen with landing status to live in other countries. So, I wondered why I was punishing myself. But, I was determined to stay and resolve the problems, even if we were to leave after,” he said, noting that his wife has already left with his children for her home in Barbados.
Mr. Poyser told the media that he is still optimistic that, eventually, he can work out an arrangement with JRF. However, he says he cannot understand why he has never been considered for the “generous debt forgiveness” which, he understands, has been extended to other debtors.
“My sojourn with the financial institutions, FINSAC and its affiliates from the 1990s to date has been very demoralising and devastating, and I am left with the prospect of facing imprisonment, because I have been and may be found to be in disobedience of court orders with which I simply cannot comply…,” he told the Commission.
By BALFORD HENRY, JIS Reporter & Editor