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UK Serious Fraud Office said to be investigating St Vincent resort

“I shall say more on this at a later date. This is as yet a developing matter,” Eustace told a news conference as the fallout continues from an encounter between Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and two journalists from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) over the weekend.

Eustace said he was advised that sometime around Thursday, a UK-based lawyer from Regulatory Legal Solicitors, acting for a number of UK 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 Buccama 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 Buccama Resort, remain on the table for the UK investors he represents,” Eustace said.

Gonsalves, during a call to a local radio station over the weekend, said the BBC journalists asked him about an allegation of bribery involving him and chair of Harlequin, Dave Ames.

He denied the allegation and has assured citizens that he is not corrupt.

Ames was granted citizenship because of his investment here.

Eustace told the news conference that Ames and the resort have “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.

“I have on many occasions publicly called upon the project to honour its debts to local contractors and workers, with little success. Internationally, UK 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 in January, the UK’s Financial Services Authority issued an alert to British investors in Harlequin advising that there will be no financial assistance by London in respect of losses from their investments.

He further said that last Tuesday, “the BBC, in the persons 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 and denied making any allegations of corruption against Gonsalves in the interview.

Reprinted from Caribbean360




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