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NCB FOR SALE?

NCB FOR SALE?

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A merger of the National Commercial Bank (NCB), the Development Bank and a regional finance entity is in the making.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, in charge of Finance, was uncharacteristically mute when contacted on the issue. “I don’t want to speak about that yet,” he said. {{more}}
He referred to a merger between the Development Bank and the NCB, which has already been mooted and has seen some headway.
But in a cautious manner, he said: “We are looking at other options to enhance the strength and viability of the bank.”
The NCB has been under some woes in recent times. Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves had pointed out in parliament, soon after he assumed office after the March 28 general election the precarious nature of the Bank. Banking relations were in doubt owing to this country being put on the Financial Action Task Force blacklist in 2000 over concerns about possible money laundering because of this country’s secrecy laws which were in place then.
Last year a Commission of Inquiry into the failed Ottley Hall Marina Project endured some fits and starts particularly over whether or not one of the big players in the Project, former NCB Chairman Richard Joachim should testify before the lone Commissioner Justice Ephraim Georges. Joachim was placed under the microscope for his role in lending monies from the NCB toward the construction of the equally disastrous Union Island Marina Project.
The NCB incurred some $20 million in debt as a result of the Union Island fiasco,
Other scandals involving the NCB have painted a picture of ineptitude in the management of the bank’s operations over the years. This saw the departure from the bank of several high profile employees and the sudden departure in more recent times of several others. At least two lower ranked employees have been charged by this country’s justice system with at least one conviction thus far.
Last September former General Manager Joseph Heavener, an Irishman who had been brought in to run the institution quit suddenly and left the country citing “personal reasons.”
He was later replaced by Cooper Williams, a Vincentian-born banker who had retired from Barclays Bank to hold steady the rocking ship.
But informed sources say that since the government is concerned about the precarious state of the institution it is seeking a merger with the SVG Development Bank and a regional banking entity in an effort to secure a bail out. Only time will reveal just what direction the NCB finally goes.

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