30 years on, itís the same Rollins deal
By Marston Gordon
May 23, 2019, 17:45
It feels like 1989! Back in those days there was a minister of Production, Planning and Development named P.J. Patterson. One of his first mighty acts on the Peopleís National Party (PNP) ascendancy to government was to strike a secret deal with American businessmen John Rollings. The land in question was foreclosed on by Chase Bank of Manhattan in the 1970ís and later acquired by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) in 1976. When Rollins emerged from bankruptcy in the 1980ís he approached Edward Seaga whose Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was then in government; he was soundly rebuffed and made a stink to block aid from USAID to Jamaica.
The Fresh Prince obliged and sold back the 2,730 acre property to Rollins for US$1.1m despite a valuation in excess of US$100.0m by UDC. Within 10 years many of the 520 acres of villa type lots were sold between USD 50,000 and $200,000 per acre and the promised development of other sections of the property dragged on for years.
Under an agreement dated December 15, 2000 Beaches Grand Sport at Ciboney was leased to Rios Hotel Management (Rios) for three years and under a separate agreement on that date, a purchase option was granted to Rios for US$17.5 million with expiry at August 31, 2003. Subsequent to the expiry of the purchase option and on enquiry by the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE) the board of Ciboney issued a statement on September 11, 2003 advising of the sale of the resort to Rios. Four months later (January 2004), the company informed the JSE of further terms of the sale, principally that it had granted a 5 years vendorís mortgage at 12.5% as Rios had not yet obtained financing for the balance of the purchase price.
Interestingly, a valuation of the resort complex 8 years earlier (January 1992) had placed it at US$66.6 million.
Prior to the above sale, Sandals Ocho Rios Hotel was sold to the Sandals Group under an agreement dated April 1, 1999 for US 13.5 million; the appraised value at the time cannot be ascertained.
Gorstew, in court documents filed on September 7, 2012, asked the Supreme Court to interpret the powers of the contractor general (Greg Christie) to investigate the 2011 sale of the Sandals Whitehouse hotel by the government (through UDC and NIBJ) to Gorstew for US40.0 million. Gorstew said it did not believe that the OCG had the power under the Contractor General Act to conduct a special investigation into the purchase of the hotel "nor does he have the power to issue requisitions/questions contained in its letter of June 20, 2012. It further stated that the contractor general has no jurisdiction or function relating to the sale and/or purchase of land or property such as the hotel.
The tactic worked again, nothing happened and it died from powerful causes.
1977 the Government of Jamaica acquired all of Barclayís shares and changed the name of the bank to the National Commercial Bank (NCB). It went through a series of mergers during the Omar Davisí inspired banking crises in the early 1990ís and was acquired from Patrick Hylton led FINSAC by Michael Lee-Chinís AIC Limited in 2002. The terms of the sale was apparently very favourable to Mr. Lee-Chin, hence he should know as co-chairman of the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) what it takes to attract overseas investment.
Ironically, Mr. Hylton subsequently went on to work for NCB and is presently the President and Group CEO.
Puerto Caribe Properties Limited
The sale of Rooms on the beach properties by UDC for US$7.2m against valuation of between US$11.8m and US$13.6m is not surprising, neither is the influence of a minister of government (this time Daryl Vaz), nor the objection of the contractor general (Dirk Harrison).
The Integrity Commission which subsumed the role of the Office of the Contractor General in February 2018 has indicated that it had concerns with some of the conclusions of the July 2018 report prepared by Mr. Harrison. On the face of it, it appears that Mr. Harrisonís work or a significant portion of it that informed his opinion might have been completed before the integrity commission became operational.
Mr. Harrison has stuck by his report so the integrity commissioners decided that in the ďinterest of transparency, procedural fairness, and in pursuit of natural justice, the parties who were adversely implicated in the report should be informed of the findings and given an opportunity to respondĒ.
Two questions to the commissioners are:
i. whether this is the modus operandi afforded to all persons implicated in an investigation
ii. why is it necessary to give heads up to Mr. Vaz since the report will be tabled in parliament
Democracy is under threat due in part to political appointments to boards (UDC), anti-corruption agencies (Integrity Commission), judiciary (Chief Justice), chief legal advisor to the government (Attorney General) etc., and although not new the internet makes it as plain as day.
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