Buccament Bay Resort in its former glory. (Internet photo)

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I had made these notes yesterday, December 17th, but things have been moving so fast since December 12, 2016 that it might be more practical to pedal backwards when we’re talking about the clash of the conmen at Buccament Resort.

What is it about Mr. David Ames, a man on the lam and certain principal representatives of the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines that is creating an inability for parties to deal with each other at arms’ length in the interest of SVG?

The ongoing saga of Harlequin SVG, trading as Buccament Resort, is well known to most who are interested, thanks to international media reports, social and otherwise and compliments of the Justice Coulson judgment delivered in the UK High Court last week.   So yesterday, the Government of SVG convenes a hasty huddle to amend the Bankruptcy Act and to secure restitution for “provable debts”.   At the end of the special sitting of the Court, we hear that the accounting firm, KPMG, is reported to have been granted limited powers, where necessary, especially for securing the assets of the resort. To me, limits on the one hand imply a lack of limits on the other.   Note here that in the summation of the judgment to which I referred earlier, there was a clear recommendation that Buccament Resort proceed to insolvency and that it be done voluntarily by its principals.

But, I cannot easily get past the fact that, not even a good two weeks ago, there was a flurry of activity around Buccament Bay Resort, that saw high-level government people making their way there to strongly encourage workers to carry on working without pay on the very shaky premise that there was good word from Mr. Ames that outstanding monies owed to workers for up to three months would be brought up-to-date and paid in less than a week.   There was to have been a payment arrangement that would preface the settlement.

Surely, there is a case for hope in most things in the world but what do we have here? We have G-men muscling in on the fledgling industrial action to stop it so that the workers could go deeper in the hole.   For years, the Labour Department did absolutely nothing to bring about redress for the abused workers.   It was all the same to them when, in 2014, there was a cautionary plea for attention by the then leader of the opposition.

We have a Labour Department and a central government that knew, without a doubt, two to three years ago, that Buccament Resort was deeply in financial distress and in over its head. How did they know? They knew because the coffers of the State had been coming up short regularly and with outstanding obligations increasing for the same number of years. They could not miss it. So what was done?   It leaves me to ask what is it about Mr. David Ames, a man on the lam and certain principal representatives of the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines that is creating an inability for parties to deal with each other at arms’ length?

Given that the resort was of such paramount importance to steady employment in SVG, did anyone from Government approach Mr. Ames to meet him halfway or part way or to seek to wrest control of the resort from Mr. Ames by the same legal means we see hastily employed today to satisfy the outstanding debts to the State, debts to state agencies and to see what options, if any, were available to continue to run the place and guarantee paid employment? No. No. No.

Why did the government men who were at Buccament less than two weeks ago not level with the employees and make it clear to Mr. Ames that he was to get his marketing agencies and brokers to turn around guests whose arrivals were imminent to have alternate arrangements made with them? These things happen all the time in the world and there are standard ways to handle them. But no, the government men put on a play, a dramatization that included Mr. Ames to continue to trick workers into believing that money owed to them was forthcoming in a matter of days. This is what I cannot take about these people. I don’t hate them; I am indifferent to them. I see a hopeless, soulless bunch of wilfully incompetent people who are determined to ruin a perfectly good country while pretending otherwise.

It has to be that the government men lacked compassion and were patently dishonest with the workers because I cannot understand why they could not face down Mr. Ames in the way that he needed to be faced down concerning arriving guests rather than come up with the drivel and confusion that they did.   Labour Department and government were already years late with their joint remedies yet they could not bring themselves to do the right thing even at the ninth hour.

So, once again, what is standing between Mr. Ames and the GOSVG that is creating this lack of ability to deal with each other at arms’ length?   And where was the Government and Labour Department’s interest in the resort three years ago when the problems might have still been manageable and when there might have been a chance for a friendly or civil take-over by some other competent investor?

So we are hearing on the social media scene and from concerned citizens “oh, credit unions must band together and run the resort”, this must happen, that must happen and “it’s time black people get wealth”.   Who, in their right mind, would want to be saddled in an honest way with a rundown, poorly maintained 5-star resort turned zero-star resort that is mired in woes and controversy and that was never viable from day one because of a business model that was hugely flawed?   I mean, who would want to try to run that as a resort in the way it was intended to be run?

The matter of complications of land ownership at Buccament Bay Resort, planning permissions and lack of planning permissions for an undertaking the size of Buccament Bay Resort are another matter entirely and way above my head.

Good luck to the Government of SVG as it purports to pit itself, finally in the interest of SVG, against the ”Empire” and the shareholders of Harlequin.   Good luck to the Government of SVG as it moves to flex its sovereign muscle. Blessings!

J. James

British judge says Harlequin has ‘hallmarks of a serious and significant scam’

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

3 replies on “The clash of the conmen at Buccament Resort”

  1. The government could have severely penalized or shut the resort down as early as 2007 for failure to submit annual financial statements:

    https://m.facebook.com/vincyview/posts/375655562487877

    It refused to do so for two basic reasons, one of which you mention.

    1. Permission to acquire land (much still not paid for but built on) and construct a small part of what was supposed to be a 1,200-room resort was premised on its job creation prospects which it certainly fulfilled during both the construction and operation phases. Closing the resort was not an option this or any other government would have easily entertained. Better to let the resort limp along to a slow and painful death so long as it gave jobs to our people, even if many of them were never paid.

    2. Interest in building the resort was peddled by the government as a response to the decision to construct Argyle airport. No airport, no hotel; no hotel, no airport. Had the resort been closed by the government, this would have questioned the entire rationale for building an international airport.

    So why did our government get involved with someone like Ames if there was such a drive to build our hospitality sector to create employment while meeting the needs of the thousands of new visitors that Argyle airport was promised to bring?

    The simple answer — but one most Vincentians are unwilling to accept — is that beggars can’t be choosers. The mainland of St. Vincent does not have any mass tourism potential which is why only “investors” like Ames are willing to gamble on making any money here.

    The big players in the hospitality industry — Hilton, Sheraton, Four Seasons, Marriott, Intercontinental, Sandals (which is said to have given us a glance), etc. — have never and would never give us a second look.

    This is not an unpatriotic statement as some people may claim; it is just the plain truth.

    1. I can’t deny any of that. just a few days ago I was told by a friend in Europe that they had a friend that was in the Caribbean for a cruise. The passengers were told they cannot stop in Saint Vincent because it is deemed to be unsafe for tourists. What should that tell us?

  2. Those of us that are “old”, and have seen this sort of thing happen many times, can look at the entire fiasco and predict with very good accuracy what, besides what this article tells us, also probably occurred. In a nutshell: it must have been beneficial for the government to allow this to continue all these years, and even these last weeks. C.ben is undeniably correct that it had mostly to do with the airport but ask yourself: “Why would the government allow this place to operate so long without paying taxes?”

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