It was also confirmed that those discussions included the possibility of SIDF buying out the tourism development project that began in 2008; but of late has had to be maneuvering very testy economic, financial and legal issues.
However, some in the public have taken their claims even further, suggesting that the SIDF had already invested anywhere from 40 to 50 million dollars in the development. This claim has not been accepted by the government of St. Kitts and Nevis and the country’s Prime Minister, Dr. Denzil Douglas, on Tuesday 5thMarch, 2013, during his weekly radio program, stated that he and his administration are not aware of any such cash or other injection from the SIDF.
Though Dr. Douglas for years has denied having any control over the operations of the SIDF, which was established as a private foundation by the National Bank Trust, which itself is owned by the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank, (in which government has majority shareholding and management control) he did admit though that his government is briefed on any major investment that would be pursued by the foundation, and as far as he was aware, no such loan or grant has been provided to Christophe Harbour.
However, Prime Minister Dr. Douglas was quick to distance his administration from any direct involvement in the exploratory discussions, saying “Government has not been in negotiation with anyone, no entity at all, to buy Christophe Harbour. We would like to buy Christophe Harbour, if we could, because the Southeast Peninsula area that is now described as Christophe Harbour Development is one of the most attractive areas in St. Kitts and Nevis.”
He said it is an area that is being developed with very high sustainability in terms of the environment being of major concern. “So we continue to cherish what we have at Christophe Harbour at the Southeast Peninsula, but sad to say, the government is not yet well resourced, (maybe within the next year or two after we would have had full economic recovery, we would be resourced enough to do it) but at the moment, we are not able to do that.”
“I understand that the SIDF, together with an interested partner, was in negotiation with the owners of Christophe Harbour to get involved in acquiring it; I understand that, that has not been pursued, and so the Christophe Harbour project is being looked at by other entities,” explained Dr. Douglas.
“Let me explain that sometime last year, I believe it must have been in a press conference of this kind, it was revealed that the owners of Christophe Harbour, who are the Kiawah Development partners, who own an investment project in Kiawah island of South Carolina, and also a project called Doonbeg Development in Ireland and also Christophe Harbour in St. Kitts, the owners of that development company, or holding I should say, they seemed to have had some personal family dispute and the matter went to arbitration for settlement. In the arbitration it would appear the decision was taken that one member of the owners, a family member who is a cousin of the major shareholder, the smaller shareholder was given the opportunity…, by arbitration, to buy out the larger shareholder of that entire development in Ireland, in Kiawah Island of South Carolina and their holdings here in St. Kitts and Nevis.”
The Prime Minister further stated that “It was during that period when that smaller shareholder, a cousin of the family, was seeking to take possession of the entire family holdings, that he had a number of potential buyers to look at acquiring the Christophe Harbour Development. And so the Government met with no less than three potential investors in this area…well four. Four potential investors, one of which wanted to do a partnership agreement with the SIDF, or the parent of SIDF, which is the National Bank Trust. But I understand that another potential buyer, one who was interested in Doonbeg Development in Ireland and also in the Kiawah Island Development and naturally would also be involved with the Christophe Harbour Development, that particular investment group is in the process of acquiring the entire holdings of the Kiawah Partners, including the Christophe Harbour Development.”
Douglas clarified by saying Government is not involved, except to be notified that these potential buyers were negotiating and got government’s reaction as to what government’s reaction would be if they were to acquire the particular development.