Allegations included in a Witness Statement made in 2005 by murdered Chartered Accountant and former head of the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC), Douglas Chambers, highlighted Tuesday’s (March 1) sitting of the Finsac Commission of Enquiry.
During the sitting, the Commission heard witness, Jean-Marie Desulme, the Haitian-born former Managing Director of Thermo-Plastics and its subsidiary, Plas-Pak, accuse named members of the previous Government of accepting cash handouts from him, then siding with his brother, Yvon, in his bid to take over the company founded by their late father, Thomas.
Mr. Desulme told the Commissioners that a very senior officer of the National Commercial Bank (NCB), which had placed the companies in receivership in 1998, told him that the companies’ problem was not financial but political, and that the intention was to replace him with his brother, Yvon Desulme, considered a close confidante of then Prime Minister the Most Hon.P.J. Patterson.
The witness, at the direction of his Attorney, G. Anthony Levy, who has insisted on the need to make the conspiracy charges public, read extensively from Chambers’ Witness Statement. The former JUTC head was murdered in front of the public bus company’s office in Spanish Town in 2008, a development which so far bears no relationship to the FINSAC issue. The statement was submitted to the Court before his death, and was approved by the FINSAC Commissioners after reading it Tuesday.
Chambers, in the statement, said that he gained access to “some books and records” of both Thermo-Plastics and Plas-Pak in June, 2002, when he was appointed Receiver for both companies by Jamaica Redevelopment Foundation (JRF), replacing Mr. Downer.
He said that, after reviewing the books and records and following his investigation of documents he received directly from Myers, Fletcher and Gordon, Attorneys for Mr. Downer, he was convinced that some $29.4 million from Thermo-Plastics and Plas-Pak were fraudulently charged to the companies during the period for which Downer was Receiver.
The statement claimed that Production Managers/ Receivers employed during Downer’s tenure were paid $2,500 per hour, but the companies were billed for $7,000 to $7,800 per hour for their services.
Mr. Desulme insisted that there was a conspiracy to sink the 30-year old company, which was then the island’s main producer of plastics and employed over 250 persons. He said the companies were never insolvent but were placed in receivership, after NCB was taken over by FINSAC. They were eventually sold for $22 million although, he said, they valued some $2 billion.
“My reaction was that the guy (Downer) definitely had one intention, and that was sinking Thermo-Plastics,” Mr. Desulme said in response to questions from his Attorney.
Attorney for Mr. Downer, Myers Fletcher and Gordon’s Stephen Shelton, objected to statements being made against persons whom, he said, were neither present at the hearing nor were represented. He also noted that the case involving his client and Mr. Desulme was still in the courts.
The Commissioners reiterated that they had approved the use of the statement, after reading it. However, after brief, private discussions it was decided that nothing more would be read from the statement.
The enquiry continues Wednesday (March 2) at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kngston at 9:00 a.m. The Commissioners are Worrick Bogle, Chairman, Charles Ross and Justice Henderson Downer.
CONTACT: BALFORD HENRY