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By G.A.Dwyer Astaphan,


Mr. Dwyer Astaphan

There’s another company called Caribbean Governance Consultants, Inc. (“CGC”)

I have no idea if there’s a relationship between Henley & Partners and CGC, other than the fact that they share the same address, and the same phone and fax numbers. Also, while Mr. Lawrence is on the Board of Henley & Partners, he’s the owner of CGC.

Maybe the two companies share the same staff too, and other expenses. I don’t know. Nor do I know if the Government pays the rent or part of the rent, electricity and/or other outgoings or salaries or wages for that office. We need to know.

CGC has allegedly processed about 300 citizenship applications altogether, and over 100 last year alone. And, at its advertised fee rate of US$50,000.00 per applicant (see its website), CGC may have collected some US$15 million(or EC$ 40,500,000.00) in fees over the last four years.

By the way, has Mr. Lawrence’s high, inside position provided him with any special and unfair advantage in this business? Does the fact that he accompanies the Prime Minister on promotional tours in relation to financial and other services and investments in any way put other service providers at a disadvantage? Can the fact that the Prime Minister runs many, if not most, investment and proposals by Mr. Lawrence press you to ask a question or two of the way the ruler rolls?

CGC’s fees for 2011 would have been about US$5 million (EC$ 13.5 million). And that’s also a lot of money to go around. On that amount, the VAT would’ve been EC$2.3 million.

Note that my concern is not that people are making big money. That’s good for them. My concern is for a level playing field, for everybody to make a fair contribution, for transparency from the inside, and for the world to see us in a positive and exemplary way.

Now CGC, like Henley & Partners, is also exempt. So the people of St. Kitts & Nevis lose out to the tune of EC$13.8 million in VAT for last year, just between these two ‘exempt’ companies. Isn’t it odd that the ruler, who is so aggressive with you and me to collect taxes, would allow such a gaping ‘loophole’ like this to exist?

The objectives of the SIDF are: to do research into the development of other industries to replace the sugar industry, to fund the development of these industries and to fund ongoing research and development to ensure the sustainability of these alternative industries.

And it’s not allowed to operate commercially except in furtherance of its objectives.

However, it has indeed made a commercial investment, by putting a reported US$22 million ( in 2010 or 2011) in shares in Kittitian Hill, which, at best can be regarded as a medium –risk investment, a proposition that is not acceptable in the world of foundations and charities. Yes, they can give money to worthy causes that are within their remit, but they’re not to invest money in medium-risk situations.

I’m not even sure that its investment in Kittitian Hill is in accordance with its objective to “fund the development of these industries”. But even if it is (and I’m not conceding that it is), then would the SIDF have erred seriously by ignoring, or missing out on, the fact that the company which owns or is developing Kittitian Hill, namely Belmont Resorts Limited, has, since 2008, owed a substantial sum of money to CLICO Investment Bank and that the Bank has had an equitable mortgage and a caveat on 106 acres of the company’s land since June, 2008.
Long before the SIDF’s US$22 million was invested?

What rule did they follow? Or is this the ruler rolling again? Do these folks know that following the ruler is not the same as following the rule?

Would it have been prudent of the SIDF decision makers to invest that money in Kittitian Hill at a time when they knew or must have known of the problems with the CLICO Group?

Is this a déjà vue moment? We remember the British American mess that could’ve been avoided if only our Government had taken the necessary steps to protect investors. But nothing was done, because the ruler didn’t feel that anything needed to be done, so the people of St. Kitts & Nevis lost their $130 million. If only that money was where it should’ve been, that is, in the people’s hands, then some of the anguish that’s being experienced today might be eased.

Now, what would happen if action is taken on behalf of CLICO Investment Bank to collect its money from Belmont Resorts Limited? Then what would happen when CLICO’s creditors smell possible assets in St. Kitts? How would that affect the Kittitian Hill project, if at all? And where would all of that leave the SIDF and its US$22 million investment?

Of course, it’s possible that some of the US$22 million was used to pay off the CLICO Investment Bank. But I’m going to presume that that hasn’t happened.

Similarly, speaking of déjà vue, if you check the Social Security Board’s financial reports you will see that investments of several million dollars were made in CLICO and British American at a time when the CLICO-BAICO mess had already started. Prudence might’ve caused that money to be better deployed.

Do you believe that the Social Security Board made those investments in CLICO and BAICO without some encouragement from the ruler or someone close to him?

After all, isn’t that how our ruler rolls?