Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace (File photo).
Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace (File photo).

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 18, IWN — Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace on Saturday explained his reason for announcing that $1 million was withdrawn from Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves’ mother’s account at the Building & Loan Association.

“I cannot tell people to keep your money there for a while when the Prime Minister’s mother’s account was removed. My conscience wouldn’t allow me to do that. That is why I made the statement,” he said at a town hall meeting in New York organised by the New York chapter of the New Democratic Party.

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“I was criticised by a lot of people. I don’t mind that. It shouldn’t have happened,” he said of the $1 million withdrawal.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) took over management and control of the BLA on Feb. 1, and the Prime Minister deposited $21,000 in the BLA three days later and encouraged person to invest also.

But Eustace announced the $1 million withdrawal at a press conference on Feb. 11.

Gonsalves said that his brothers, who are joint shareholders of the account with their mother, withdrew the money on the advise of a former director of the BLA.

He also accused Eustace of engaging in “nastiness” when he made the announcement.

“And all this dressing up of putting back $21,000 is a lot of foolishness,” Eustace said in New York.

Meanwhile, several services at the BLA, including the withdrawals of matured redeemable shares, have been suspended until Aug. 31, when a new rule will increase the notice period for some withdrawals to 180 days, up from 90.

“Now, that in itself has implications for confidence in the institution,” Eustace said.

“I don’t know what people will have to do but I am saying, my position is every individual has to make their own judgements as to what they want to do with their resources. I can’t do anything more than that.”