Trinidad fires bank chief who named foreign exchange buyers

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PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) — The governor of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago has been fired after releasing the names of companies that have bought one-third of the foreign exchange sold in the last three years, officials said Thursday.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert accused former Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambarran of violating several laws when he took the unprecedented action of naming the companies nearly a month ago.

"Cabinet took the decision after very careful deliberations," Imbert said.

The companies had written Imbert to complain about Rambarran's actions and have pledged to take legal action.

Rambarran has said local laws gave him the authority to release the names, adding that people had a right to know that a large part of the foreign exchange was being used in the import and distribution trade. Rambarran also had announced that the economy of this oil- and gas-rich island nation had fallen into a recession with four straight quarters of economic decline.

Both Imbert and Prime Minister Keith Rowley said Rambarran did not back up his claim with government data.

Rambarran was fired following other complaints, including shortages of hard currency in commercial banks to pay for imports following several operational changes at the Central Bank.

Former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar appointed Rambarran three years ago amid criticism that he was chosen over officials with better qualifications.

Former bank deputy governor Alvin Hilaire has been named the bank's new governor. He has worked at the Central Bank for 20 years and spent 11 years at the International Monetary Fund as a senior economist.

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