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Former President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Dr Hyginus ‘Gene’ Leon. (Photo via CMC)

Gonsalves: ‘Flimsy’ evidence against former CDB president

May 7, 2024

CMC – St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says “unsuccessful attempts” had been made to impugn the character of the former president of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr. Hyginus “Gene “ Leon, whom he described as “ a distinguished son of our Caribbean civilisation from St. Lucia”.

Last month, lawyers representing Leon, gave the CDB until May 4 “to negotiate  an amicable separation” indicating also that their correspondence should be viewed “as our client’s pre action protocol letter” regarding the entire situation.

In the three-page letter,  Dated April 21, and headlined “Re. Dr. Hyginus  “Gene” Leon, Resignation and Constructive Dismissal,  the St. Lucia-based law firm, Fosters,   said it would be moving to the courts in Barbados “or any other jurisdiction more appropriate, to enforce our client’s legal and constitutional rights”.

Gonsalves asked then what are the next steps in “addressing this debacle”  saying “it certainly does not suit the bank to have its folly forensically examined in excruciating detail in the robust legal system in Barbados or elsewhere.

“I do not have to read and spell for the Governors of the Bank; The former president, Mr. Leon, has been injured, and as he has suffered loss and damage, certain things flow inexorably from all this. The Bank ought to address this with the same urgency with which it acted at the start of this awful saga; and the Bank ought to act with a large generosity of spirt,” Gonsalves said.

He said  for him “Gene Leon’s integrity remains intact, though unsuccessful attempts were made to have it impugned. He comes out of this sordid matter without blemish or wrong-doing attached to him. This distinguished  son of our Caribbean civilisation ought not to be lynched, metaphorically, any further”.

In January it was disclosed that Leon, had been sent on administrative leave until April this year, as “an ongoing administrative process” continued at the region’s premier financial institution.

The CDB has remained mum on the circumstances surrounding the decision to send the  economist on administrative leave, with the acting president Isaac Solomon, confirming at a bank news conference in February that “there is an internal administrative process involving the president”.

In a five-page letter sent to the chairman of the CDB Board of Governors, Ahmed Hussen, who is also  Canada’s Minister of International Development, Gonsalves wrote that he had refrained from making any commentary, “save in private” on the contretemps between the bank’s governorship and leadership and Leon.

He said as a result of “an unswerving commitment to the maintenance of the CDB’s integrity, and an abiding concern for our region’s further ennoblement” he is now compelled to speak “in print”.

In the May 2, 2024 letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Caribbean  Media Corporation (CMC), Gonsalves said he was in a Africa when the matter came to public attention, but that “wisdom and experience instinctively commended in me a patience an calm, knowing that sun brightens stone even as the greener leaves explode, and all the rivers burn.

“Accordingly I offered no opinion of judgement on whether the Bank’s institutional mechanisms were mobilised correctly in a juridical sense upon the receipt by them of a complaint or complaints from one or more unidentified “whistleblower(s),: said Gonsalves, an attorney and one of the region’s longest serving  head of government.

He said he “harboured no suspicion that the swift reference  “under the rules” of the Bank to a selected  investigating firm was affected by other than an unsullied motivation for the good of the Bank and its President.

“I entertained no thought that the reception of the “whistleblower(s) and the inexorable reference to an investigating process was infused with malice, ill-will or other jaundiced vice. Certainly, I saw no dark arts of a metaphoric Brutus in any conspiracy to slay Caesar,’ Gonsalves wrote in his letter that was also copied to  CARICOM leaders,  the CARICOM Secretary General and the Director of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

But he said he was “uneasy about the speed and peremptory manner upon which the entire expedition was launched, inclusive of the seizure or detention of he President’s electronic devices and his dispatch on administrative leave with a dazzling promptitude by a body of three persons, all accomplished “under the rules”.

Gonsalves also made reference to the attempts by the OECS leaders, which he described as “the most-tightly drawn integration mechanism in the Caribbean,”  sought to “prod the Bank’s governorship in the direction of sense and sensibility on the matter-at-hand”.

Gonsalves acknowledged that the OECS has “no formal locus standi” within the Bank.

“Rather than responding directly with a deserving respect and prudence to the Chairman of the OECS, the distinguished Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. The Honourable Terrence Drew, the Canadian Chairman, Pro tempore, of the Bank’s Governors…parceled out this responsibility to an American law firm acting on behalf of the Bank”.

In his letter, which is also copied to the members of the Board of Governors, Gonsalves wrote  that the “law firm’s haughty, nay rude, response, lacking in elemental civility or good manners, brought the metaphoric shutters down on civilised discourse in respect of Prime Minister Drew’s legitimate concerns.

“ The doubtful conduct of the Canadian Chairman, Pro Tempore, and the disdainful riposte of the American law firm, manufactured a foul stench which is yet to be dissipated,” Gonsalves, said, noting that an editorial in a “prestigious daily newspaper” in Jamaica “has already, rightly, etched in its public record, its disapprobation of the stances of the Canadian Chairman, pro tempore, and the American law firm”.

Gonsalves said that the swiftness of the CDB to send Leon on administrative leave, the dismissive nonchalance of Prime Minister Drew’s queries and the US law firm’s “contemptuous relay of the Chairman’s instructions, all conspired to create the public perception that the Bank’s President had committed egregious wrongs”.

He said it also gave the perception that the “informed “inner circle” was seized of more than a hint of the existence of some salacious “smoking gun” or other grievous ammunition, weighty enough to torpedo the President once and for all.

“There was in some quarters a thinly disguised, even though subdued, glee of the President’s demise amidst a sanctimonious murmur of prophesy” Let justice roll down as waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream”.

Gonsalves noted that the day before the investigator’s report was to be submitted and considered by the board of governors, Leon submitted his resignation with which his lawyers “publicly reaffirmed as constructive dismissal”.

He said that the investigator’s report is “available to those entitled to it as a right’.

“I have read it carefully. Its contends are threadbare and underwhelming. The report seeks to weave tattered threads into a twisted fabric upon which to ground a narration to justify the Bank’s actions; but it has failed, and all persons of reasonableness, judicious temper and balanced judgement, would so conclude.”

Gonsalves wrote that on the central salacious allegation ’which excited the prurient at home and abroad, there was absolutely no evidence; the story makes amusing reading, if the matter of the Bank’s President’s peremptory removal from office was not so serious.

“This allegation, and the imputations connected thereto, probably had its origin in a mind suffused by a starched Anglicanism, or an obsessive Evangelical purity laced with hypocrisy and misogyny,” he added.

Gonsalves said that the “flimsy” nature of the evidence presented in the investigator’s report and the “concocted narrative of malfeasance or wrong-doing, lack persuasiveness; there is nothing compelling here.

“Indeed, the evidence, taken at its highest, leaves  a reasonable and fair-minded reader, whether in the councils of the Bank or in the taverns across any Caribbean country, with the inescapable conclusion that the President was, from the outset, the victim of a stitch-up job,” Gonsalves wrote.

In his letter, Gonsalves said that the people of the Caribbean “may rightly demand to know why an American firm, and not one of the inestimable value from the Caribbean, was chosen to conduct the investigation of “Gene leon.

“And what is the paternity and history of this firm? I am sure that the people of our region may wish to know, too, how much has the Bank paid for the investigation of and report on “Gene Leon,” Gonsalves said, urging all stakeholders “let us bring it all to an end…”.

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