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Jun 8, 2005

Will Godfrey testify at Senate inquiry?

Story Picture“Bring St. James.” That was the pointed message delivered on April sixth by Social Security Board General Manager Narda Garcia. Garcia was responding under oath to questions posed by members of the Senate Special Select Committee appointed to investigate the S.S.B.’s affairs in the wake of revelations that millions of dollars of public funds have been recklessly put at risk on behalf of certain clients of the St. James Building Society. Tonight, on the eve of that committee’s latest session in Belmopan, the question being asked is… will St. James–in the form of its founder Glenn Godfrey–be called to testify? And if called will he actually show up? Godfrey is at the centre of the investigation because companies he controlled borrowed millions from the building society he created. Those loans, backed by inadequate collateral and used for the failed Intelco project instead of their intended purposes, were then bundled for securitized sale abroad by the Godfrey chaired Development Finance Corporation… with payment to the purchasers then guaranteed by the S.S.B. When contacted today by News Five, Committee Chairman, Senator Godwin Hulse, would only say that the list of witnesses would not be revealed until just prior to the opening of the session. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s what Garcia had to say on April sixth, after admitting that despite some obvious red flags, certain questionable actions were still approved by the board.

Senator Rene Gomez
?You are taking upon yourself as the C.E.O., all the blame when we know that someone else is behind all of this, but yet you are taking the blame. And at the end of the day, probably your job will be in jeopardy because of this gross negligence. That is my comment, thank you.?

Narda Garcia, General Manager, S.S.B.
?Senator Gomez, respectfully I will answer you and tell you that–I will repeat again that I only acted for and on behalf of the Social Security Board. I made my recommendations; they were not taken for whatever reason. I can?t blame anybody if I don?t have any proof. I will not be taken to court for saying person A and person B. The records are there and I hope that you make an objective decision and objective recommendations. I will again repeat that it is my personal opinion for what I know of the entire transaction that St. James and the principals of St. James should be brought before the Senate to answer questions, because they are certainly questions that I cannot answer because I don?t have the answers. And I am repeating it again, bring the principals of St. James, they will have or should have the answers that I clearly don?t have and I don?t think my colleagues at the D.F.C. have.?

If Godfrey does testify it will be his first opportunity to face hostile questioning since the Social Security controversy erupted almost a year ago. Since that time he has refused to talk to the press, choosing to break his silence only once, in a friendly one-on-one with a fawning Rosalie Staines on her show “Oapn Paki” on Love FM. On that occasion, Godfrey characterized St. James as a home-grown, up and coming financial institution that was beginning to make the big boys nervous.

Glenn Godfrey
?It was designed to help people build houses, to save and build houses. And it was very successful, it grew very rapidly. And it grew so rapidly that I started making enemies in people who were powerful in the banking sector, especially the Carlisle Group.?

?Our difficulty started when I got out of government and decided that I wanted to compete in these businesses that traditionally have been dominated by foreigners. And that every Belizean should have right to be able to participate…

Rosalie Staines, Host, Oapn Paki
?Invest in their own country.?

Glenn Godfrey
?But there was a very strong feeling out there by some people who feel that those areas should be reserved to non-Belizeans, and they are very powerful people.?

The Senate hearing begins Thursday morning at nine-thirty in the National Assembly.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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