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Joachim rolls with punches on Day 2

Joachim rolls with punches on Day 2

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A two-and-a-half year break may have been somewhat beneficial to the memory of former chairman of the National Commercial Bank Richard Joachim, who testified on Day 2 of the Ottley Hall Commission of Enquiry.

The hearing resumed at the Sunset Shores Hotel last Thursday with Joachim, who chaired the bank from 1985 to 1999, returning to give testimony.{{more}}

Joachim, who was represented by an amicable Nicole Sylvester, also appeared to be more relaxed than the last time he was questioned about what transpired about 15 years ago.

He testified that despite the fact that he was chairman of the board of directors, he relied heavily on the recommendations of then manager W. Beverly Brisbane who he said had more banking experience than he did.

He testified that all recommendations for loans to Valdatarro came through Brisbane who was in direct contact with Dr. Aldo Rolla.

All that is, except one. This was on a request from primary shareholder in the NCB – the then Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell.

Joachim said that although he was aware of the requests for millions of dollars from Rolla, he did not sanction them, he sanctioned the recommendations. The loans were approved by the board through round robin agreements.

Round robin refers to the process where the board members give their vote on a matter individually, when the board is unable to meet.

According to Joachim, Brisbane’s concerns that something might be amiss when monies promised by Rolla were not forthcoming were taken seriously by the board, which then set up a special committee to meet with the Italian in August 1995. Shortly after that Rolla left the country.

Council for the enquiry Anthony Astaphan during his cross examination of Joachim, expressed his surprise that among other things, millions of dollars were approved through the round robin process, where board members would not be able to receive full information on the agreement.

Astaphan also noted that his concern that loans were also approved based on the ‘request’ of the major shareholder in the bank.

Joachim concluded that most of the board members were optimistic about the project, and were eager to see the project move forward.

He said the members relied mainly on the judgement of the Prime Minister in making their decisions.

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