SOCU was in­ves­ti­gat­ing ‘Big Head’ for money laun­der­ing

-af­ter multi-mil­lion dol­lar in­vest­ments

Stabroek News Sunday - - FRONT PAGE -

Hote­lier Sherv­ing­ton Lovell’s abil­ity to source fund­ing for ven­tures val­ued hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars over a short pe­riod of time raised red flags here and even­tu­ally prompted the Spe­cial Or­gan­ised Crime Unit (SOCU) to launch a money laun­der­ing probe, sources say.

Lovell, called ‘Big Head’ was ar­rested along with a Suri­namese and a Venezue­lan on Thurs­day morn­ing soon af­ter ar­riv­ing at the Nor­man Man­ley In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Ja­maica. The au­thor­i­ties held them on drug traf­fick­ing charges and ac­cord­ing to law en­force­ment of­fi­cials here, ef­forts are be­ing made to have Lovell ex­tra­dited to the United States.

Sources close to SOCU con­firmed to Sun­day Stabroek that there is an ac­tive money laun­der­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion fo­cused on Lovell. One source said Lovell has been on the unit’s radar “for some time now.”

This news­pa­per was told that of great con­cern was Lovell’s own­er­ship of Tower Suites.

Through the com­pany S&S Min­ing, Sherv­ing­ton and his brother Shawn pur­chased the ho­tel in 2015 at a re­ported cost of $766 mil­lion and un­der­took ma­jor ren­o­va­tions. Then just three years later, in 2018, he was able to open the Leisure Inn Ho­tel in Ber­bice, which had a price tag of around $450 mil­lion.

“How can a man have the abil­ity to make these huge in­vest­ments? He is not a known busi­ness­man. What does he have? Is he a gold dealer…? Own a su­per­mar­ket? Own an air­line? We are talk­ing about more than a $1 bil­lion in a two-year pe­riod. Some­thing is not right there,” a se­cu­rity source said, while point­ing out that Lovell would have had to get col­lat­eral to take to the bank be­fore he could get a loan.

While Lovell and his brother Shawn Lovell would have ac­quired own­er­ship of the Main Street ho­tel since 2015, they never made their iden­ti­ties pub­lic but in­stead had their Op­er­a­tions Man­ager Chan­drika Hem­raj serve as the pub­lic face of the ho­tel.

In May of 2016, when Hem­raj was asked about the cost of the ho­tel’s ren­o­va­tions and the ab­sence of the own­ers from its open­ing, he had noted that he as Op­er­a­tions Man­ager could not pro­vide the ren­o­va­tion cost but he was sure that the prin­ci­pals would when the time was right.

He had said then that the broth­ers made a ma­jor in­vest­ment in its ren­o­va­tion “but I don’t think they are the type of busi­ness­men who would show off.”

In 2014, un­der the own­er­ship of Salim Azeez, USbased busi­ness­man James Man­ba­hal, Bharti Per­saud Misir and Varen­dra Shi­wratan, the ho­tel was abruptly closed with­out pay­ing its em­ploy­ees the ben­e­fits due to them.

In July of this year, when the Leisure Inn Ho­tel was opened, Ke­sha Phillips, who iden­ti­fied her­self as Sherv­ing­ton Lovell’s wife, was the one to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on the ven­ture. At the time, she had said that the ho­tel had 30 rooms, two built specif­i­cally to ac­com­mo­date dif­fer­ently-abled per­sons, an in­door pool and bar, sports bar, con­fer­ence hall, restau­rant and a soonto-be-opened night­club.

She said the ho­tel was built in stages, with the foun­da­tion be­ing laid some nine years ago. “We did our foun­da­tion and we had that for a while then we signed a con­tract with Home De­signs and a few years later we con­tin­ued from there,” she said.

When she was con­tacted about her hus­band’s ar­rest on Fri­day, she claimed she was un­aware of it. Sev­eral at­tempts to reach her yes­ter­day for an up­date were un­suc­cess­ful.

This news­pa­per was told on Fri­day that Lovell and the two other men may have ap­peared in a Kingston court the same day of their ar­rest and waived their rights to fight the ex­tra­di­tion.

This news­pa­per was un­able to as­cer­tain yes­ter­day whether Lovell was still in Ja­maica.

The busi­ness­man kept in the shad­ows of his in­vest­ments and although he was pre­vi­ously sought for ques­tion­ing here in con­nec­tion with a se­ries of mur­ders, he had never been charged.

“It has been sev­eral months of in­ves­ti­ga­tions… be­tween lo­cal, re­gional and in­ter­na­tional part­ners,” a law en­force­ment said af­ter news of his ar­rest.

Ja­maican au­thor­i­ties were re­ported to have been wait­ing for Lovell and his as­so­ciates and as soon as he stepped off the plane he was nabbed. He is said to also own prop­er­ties on that is­land and it is ex­pected that these will be seized by the au­thor­i­ties there.

In 2010, po­lice had is­sued a wanted bul­letin for Lovell and many oth­ers in con­nec­tion three sets of ex­e­cu­tion-style killings. In those killings, which oc­curred over a five-week pe­riod, eight peo­ple, in­clud­ing a woman and her four-year-old son, were rid­dled with bul­lets. He turned him­self in and was sub­se­quently re­leased with­out charge.

Sherv­ing­ton Lovell

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