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Harry on ex-Commissioner of Co-operatives: He was like a criminal
Former Commissioner of Co-operatives Charles Mitchell carried out his duties like a seasoned criminal. This is how a fiery Harry Harnarine, former president of the Hindu Credit Union (HCU), described him yesterday under cross-examination at the Clico/HCU commission of enquiry at Winsure Building, Port-of-Spain.
Mitchell, while under cross-examination in May at the enquiry, spoke of death threats from Harnarine. “I will say it is Mr Mitchell was the one who has always conducted the affairs of his office in the manner of that of a criminal,” Harnarine said. Senior Counsel Reginald Armour, attorney for Mitchell, told Harnarine that he should be “guarded” in his remarks.
“No one is accusing anyone of being a criminal. I would ask you not to use that language when speaking of him,” Armour said. Harnarine fired back: “I will stick to my position that the attitude of Mr Mitchell and the way he treated me at all times and even with the members of the credit union that he described as a mob in the convention centre, was that of a seasoned criminal.”
Harnarine demanded that Mitchell bring evidence to show Harnarine was not responsible in carrying out his duties He added: “If Mitchell is saying that I acted in any manner in conducting affairs of the credit union, in an irresponsible manner, in terms of carrying out his instructions, I would like that evidence to come to me.
“So far in this enquiry, he said I threatened to kill him. Other than that, despite what I may think of him, I showed him respect and honour because of the office he held. There is no evidence in the tenure of my office that I disrespected him.” Harnarine also accused Mitchell of “cussing” him when he went to Mitchell over a matter concerning the Central Bank.
He said: “There was a matter with the Central Bank with Bankers Insurance and when I went to Mr Mitchell, on the instructions of the Governor of the Central Bank, Mr Mitchell ‘cussed’. “If you all investigate the files of the HCU, you would see that there was a major transaction with Bankers Insurance that is not coming out in this enquiry.” Armour responded that Harnarine was only now raising issues in the closing stages of the enquiry that he had had ample time to raise for many years.
Harnarine claimed he wanted to work with the office of the Commissioner of Co-operatives and if they were more conciliatory, things would have been different today. He added: “Why, at the level at the Commissioner of Co-operatives, we could not have the same management of systems and same type of guidance and working together?
“If it had been done, we would not be doing all that we are doing now. We would have had the assets, the shareholders would have had the remaining deposits and the problems would have been resolved. “The world is going towards having information, having talks. This is the direction we wanted for the credit union.”
Harnarine also referred to the evidence he gave on Tuesday about the foreign-used Land Cruiser, sold by his wife, Roma Maharaj-Harnarine, to the HCU for $430,000. On Tuesday Harnarine was asked why the vehicle was still in her name. Harnarine said people would use this information to slander him. “They sending people by the mechanic to terrorise for the vehicle. Tomorrow they will be saying Harry want to beat them up for the vehicle,” he said.
Armour also asked Harnarine about Mitchell going to the HCU Convention Centre for a meeting in September 2008 with the membership that had to be aborted owing to an “unruly mob” of 20 to 30 people. But Harnarine said the HCU membership was not a mob and denied the incident took place.
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