Regional carrier LIAT says that the chair of its shareholder governments, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, does not own two of the airline’s aircraft, a reported by a blog.
LIAT in a statement on Tuesday responded to a Jan. 17 post on Barbados Free Press in which an anonymous writer said there was a conflict of interest including the Vincentian leader.
The anonymous author said, “The conflict of interest arises because SVG is one of the major shareholders in LIAT. Government funds are involved and Prime Minister Gonsalves is heavily involved in decision making about the airline”.
The article was headlined “Report of Conflict of Interest: Saint Vincent PM Ralph Gonsalves said to own 2 LIAT aircraft”.
But LIAT said in a statement that the two aircraft mentioned in the article are owned by a publicly listed U.S.-based leasing company trading on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
“LIAT has always had arms length negotiations with this lessor and its relationship with this lessor is firmly set on a commercial basis,” the airline said.
“LIAT has no aircraft leases with Prime Minister Gonsalves or any shareholder of the Company and categorically denies the suggestion that the Prime Minister has anything to do with the leasing of aircraft to LIAT. LIAT views conflict of interest very seriously and abides by principles of good corporate governance,” the airline further said.
LIAT further said that it supports “the freedom of the press in all media and the highest standards of journalism which includes the verification of sources and information obtained.
“At no time was LIAT requested to comment on the allegation before the publication of the anonymous blog.”
The statement further said that acting Chief Executive Officer of LIAT, Julie Reifer-Jones commented that: “These statements are reckless and mischievous. Such reports negatively impact the travelling public, our Caribbean community constituents, and the staff of our airline. LIAT distances itself from these unverified reports and remains committed to channelling our energies into our modernization programme and to putting LIAT on a profitable footing”.