KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Feb. 21, IWN – The U.K. Serious Fraud Office is investigating the Buccament Bay Resort project, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace told a press conference Wednesday, saying he has “a copy of submissions” to that office.
“I shall say more on this at a later date. This is as yet a developing matter,” Eustace said as the fallout from an encounter between Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and two BBC journalists in Barbados on Sunday continues.
Eustace said he was advised that sometime around Thursday, a U.K.-based lawyer from Regulatory Legal Solicitors, acting for a number of U.K. investors in the Harlequin Buccament Bay Project had flown to St. Vincent and the Grenadines “for the purpose of ascertaining the situation as it pertains to Harlequin’s Buccament Resort and to further investigate the land title at Buccament as it relates to the resort.
“I am further advised that all options — including an international freezing order the effect of which would be to halt the operation of the Buccament Resort — remain on the table for the U.K. investors he represents,” Eustace said.
Gonsalves during a call to WE FM on Sunday, said the BBC journalists asked him about an allegation of bribery involving him and chair of Harlequin, Dave Ames.
He denied the allegation and sought to assure citizens that he is not corrupt.
Ames was granted citizenship because of his investment here.
Eustace told the press conference that Ames and the resort “has had a troubled history.
“Locally, the project has been plagued by labour and land ownership disputes, litigation by investors, and arrears owed to vendors, the combination of which has prompted questions as to whether the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines exercised thorough due diligence in its assessment of Dave Ames and Harlequin,” said Eustace a former prime minister and minister of finance.
“I have, on many occasions, publicly called upon the project to honour its debts to local contractors and workers, with little success. Internationally, U.K. investors have instituted legal proceedings which have attracted coverage by British and regional press.”
He said the “allegations of bribery against the Prime Minister” … are causing “unease” among Vincentians locally and in the Diaspora, and have “cast a pall over St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ investment landscape”.
Eustace said that he is presenting the facts in light of the concerns expressed to him, by Vincentians at home and in the Diaspora, as well as statements made by the Prime Minister daily since Sunday.
He noted that in January, the U.K.’s Financial Services Authority issued an alert to British investors in Harlequin advising that there will be no financial assistance by the British government in respect of losses from their investments.
Eustace said he advised Vincentians of this development during his Monday morning programme on Nice Radio.
He further said that last Tuesday, Feb. 12, “the BBC, in the person of an investigative team working with that institution’s ‘Panorama’ programme, requested of me an interview in relation to Harlequin and Dave Ames”.
Eustace said he agreed to be interviewed and the interview took place at his home.
“While the cameras rolled, Mr. Paul Kenyon of the BBC put to me allegations that Prime Minister Gonsalves received substantial bribes from Dave Ames and sought my response to these allegations if they were discovered to be true.
“In response, I indicated that if such were true, the Prime Minister would have to demit office,” Eustace said.
Gonsalves has said that a man had told him that the BBC had shown the man a video in which Eustace made the allegation.
Eustace has denied making any allegations of corruption against Gonsalves in the interview.
Further, Matthew Chapman, the producer of the BBC “Panorama” programme to be made about Harlequin, told I-Witness News on Tuesday that his team does not have a video of such an allegation.
“No one in the Panorama team can find out what video the PM is referring to.
“We’re not aware one exists,” he further told I-Witness News.