Min­is­ter Ad­dresses Lam­birds Mat­ter

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

STAR Re­porter

The Min­is­ter of Com­merce, Busi­ness Devel­op­ment, In­vest­ment and Con­sumer Af­fairs on Wed­nes­day April 29, used the House of As­sem­bly to ad­dress the Lam­birds Academy Af­fair. In Fe­bru­ary of this year, lo­cal po­lice had ar­rested, for hu­man traf­fick­ing, four men be­lieved to be run­ning the school. The school had been sanc­tioned by the Min­istry of Com­merce to do busi­ness here, as well as the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion to op­er­ate a school.

By way of in­tro­duc­tion, Hip­polyte said on Wed­nes­day that the Min­istry of Com­merce, Busi­ness Devel­op­ment, In­vest­ment and Con­sumer Af­fairs has over­all re­spon­si­bil­ity, amongst other things, for pri­vate sec­tor devel­op­ment and in­vest­ment in St. Lu­cia.

“The re­spon­si­bil­ity to at­tract, fa­cil­i­tate and mon­i­tor in­vest­ments (both for­eign and lo­cal) rests with In­vest St. Lu­cia who re­ports to the Min­is­ter for Com­merce, Busi­ness, In­vest­ment and Con­sumer Af­fairs,” Emma Hip­polyte told the House. “Fur­ther, one of the pro­cesses used to reg­u­late trade in the pri­vate sec­tor is the is­suance of a trade li­cence. This is ad­min­is­tered by the Min­istry through a Trade Li­cence Board.” She then went on to ex­plain the Act gov­ern­ing the board as well as the com­po­si­tion of the board.

“A Trade Li­cence is is­sued by the Sec­re­tary to the Ad­vi­sory Board, with the ap­proval of the Min­is­ter. The Trade Li­cence is an an­nual li­cence which ex­pires on 31 De­cem­ber ev­ery year and is re­quired by for­eign com­pa­nies or for­eign in­di­vid­u­als in or­der to con­duct busi­ness in St. Lu­cia,” the Min­is­ter said.

On the Lam­birds is­sue the Min­is­ter pointed out that her state­ment is in­tended only to bring clar­ity and not to prej­u­dice or com­pro­mise the on­go­ing po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions and court cases.

“On May 4–6, 2014 In­vest St. Lu­cia held a first In­vest­ment Fo­rum in St. Lu­cia. Dr. Shams of Lam­birds Academy at­tended the In­vest­ment Fo­rum in re­sponse to an open in­vi­ta­tion. To the best of my knowl­edge, this was the first in­ter­face be­tween Dr. Shams of Lam­birds Academy and In­vest St. Lu­cia,” Hip­ployte said.She then out­lined what tran­spired in chrono­log­i­cal or­der:

“On June 2, 2014 an ap­pli­ca­tion for a Trade Li­cence was lodged at the Min­istry of Com­merce on be­half of Lam­birds Academy Inc.

“On June 2, 2014 as Min­is­ter for In­vest­ment, I also re­ceived a copy of that same ap­pli­ca­tion with a cover let­ter from In­vest Saint Lu­cia rec­om­mend­ing that I ap­prove the Trade Li­cence. The in­vestor was ap­par­ently in ur­gent need to trans­act busi­ness and the Trade Li­cence was needed in or­der for this to oc­cur.

“On June 3, 2014 I in­structed the Chair­man of the Trade Li­cence Ad­vi­sory Board to call an ur­gent meet­ing of the Board to re­view the ap­pli­ca­tion. The ur­gent meet­ing was nec­es­sary to en­able the in­vestor to pro­ceed with fa­cil­i­tat­ing the other re­quire­ments for set­ting up a busi­ness in Saint Lu­cia, such as set­ting up of a bank ac­count and com­mence­ment of pro­cess­ing for ap­proval by the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion. The meet­ing was not con­vened.

“On June 6, pursuant to Sec­tion 7 (1), (b) of the In­vest Saint Lu­cia Act, No. 14 of 2014, I re­viewed the Trade Li­cence ap­pli­ca­tion with its rel­e­vant sup­port­ing in­for­ma­tion and ap­proved the ap­pli­ca­tion for Lam­birds Academy Inc.

“Sub­se­quently, prior to in­struct­ing the Sec­re­tary of the Trade Li­cence Ad­vi­sory Board to is­sue the Trade Li­cence, the Chair­man of the Board and I had fur­ther dis­cus­sions on the ap­pli­ca­tion. A de­ci­sion was taken to have the ap­pli­ca­tion un­dergo a fur­ther re­view by the Trade Li­cence Ad­vi­sory Board at its next meet­ing sched­uled for June 10, 2014.

“On June 10, 2014, at a duly con­vened meet­ing of the Trade Li­cence Ad­vi­sory Board, the ap­pli­ca­tion was con­sid­ered. The Board re­quested fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on the area of “con­sul­tancy ser­vices”, as well as verification of ac­cred­i­ta­tion by the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion. In ad­di­tion, the Board re­quested all the rel­e­vant sup­port­ing in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the due dili­gence on the com­pany.

“On June 12, 2104 In­vest Saint Lu­cia sub­mit­ted cor­re­spon­dence ad­dressed to the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary, Mr. Leo Ti­tus Pre­ville in­di­cat­ing that the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary of the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion sup­ported, in prin­ci­ple, the estab­lish­ment of Lam­birds Academy Inc., and that In­vest Saint Lu­cia is work­ing with the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion to en­sure that Lam­birds Academy Inc. meets the re­quire­ments out­lined in the Ed­u­ca­tion Act, No. 41 of 1999.

“On June 12 the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary, in his ca­pac­ity as the Chair­man of the Trade Li­cence Ad­vi­sory Board, rec­om­mended the ap­proval of the Trade Li­cence ap­pli­ca­tion to the Min­is­ter.

“On June 12, in my ca­pac­ity as Min­is­ter for Trade, I ap­proved the ap­pli­ca­tion for the Trade Li­cence for Lam­birds Academy based on the rec­om­men­da­tion of the Trade Li­cence Ad­vi­sory Board. The area of busi­ness con­sul­tancy was not ap­proved.

“On June 16, 2014 Lam­birds Academy was granted a Trade Li­cence, No. 48/14 to trade only in Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing. The Trade Li­cence was is­sued and duly signed by Nancy Fran­cis-Charles, Sec­re­tary of the Trade Li­cence Board pursuant to Sec­tion 6 of The Trade Li­cence Act, Chap­ter. 13.04 of the Re­vised Laws of Saint Lu­cia.

“On De­cem­ber 19, 2014 Lam­birds Academy ap­plied for a re­newal of its Trade Li­cence.

“On Jan­uary 13, 2015, the Trade Li­cence Ad­vi­sory Board rec­om­mended the ap­pli­ca­tion for ap­proval.

“On 23 Jan­uary, 2015 a Trade Li­cence #3 of 2015 was is­sued to Lam­birds Academy.

“On 8th Oc­to­ber, 2014 Lam­birds Academy made an ap­pli­ca­tion for in­cen­tives to the Min­istry of Com­merce. The ap­pli­ca­tion was pro­cessed and a draft mem­o­ran­dum was pre­pared for sub­mis­sion to Cabi­net when we heard of the ar­rest of Dr. Shams and oth­ers.

“On 9th March, 2015 the Cabi­net of Min­is­ters ap­pointed a sub-com­mit­tee com­pris­ing Min­is­ters of Ed­u­ca­tion, Na­tional Se­cu­rity and Com­merce to re­view the mat­ter and re­port to cabi­net.

“On March 12, 2015 the sub-com­mit­tee met with ACP Frances Henry and Of­fi­cer Ma­son who were re­spon­si­ble for the Lam­birds Academy in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The po­lice gave in­for­ma­tion on the rea­sons why the four in­di­vid­u­als were ar­rested and charged and that the case was pre­sented to the DPP whose of­fice had pro­vided legal ad­vice and sanc­tioned the lay­ing of charges. I then ques­tioned why the Min­istry of Com­merce was not in­formed. The of­fi­cers in­formed that they had been try­ing to con­tact one Nancy Charles but had been un­suc­cess­ful. I in­formed the po­lice that Ms Charles was the Sec­re­tary to the Trade Li­cence Board and an em­ployee of the Min­istry of Com­merce.

“About a week later, I was con­cerned that no one had con­tacted the Min­istry and called the Min­is­ter of Na­tional Se­cu­rity ex­press­ing that con­cern,” she went on. Hip­ployte said that on 23 March, af­ter Cabi­net, her sec­re­tary in­formed her that the po­lice vis­ited the Min­istry with a search war­rant.

“On Tues­day, 24 March, which was the date of the last sit­ting of Par­lia­ment, while I was in Par­lia­ment, the po­lice again vis­ited the Min­istry and on that oc­ca­sion re­quested the Lam­birds Academy file that was in my of­fice. I was in­formed that the po­lice threat­ened to break down the door of my of­fice to re­trieve the said file. My sec­re­tary handed the Lambird’s Academy file to the po­lice and they copied what­ever doc­u­ments they needed,” the min­is­ter said, adding that she was fur­ther in­formed that the po­lice took copies of e-mails from her com­puter.

She con­tin­ued: “On Wed­nes­day 25 March, and on at least two other oc­ca­sions, I called the Act­ing Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice and ob­jected to the Min­istry be­ing treated as a hos­tile wit­ness as the Min­istry was al­ways will­ing to co­op­er­ate on this mat­ter. The Act­ing Com­mis­sioner in­formed me that he had in­formed the of­fi­cer lead­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. To date, no one has spo­ken to me on this mat­ter.

“On 30 March, 2015 the Cabi­net of Min­is­ters took a de­ci­sion to con­duct an in­de­pen­dent en­quiry on the mat­ter in due course. I wel­come this de­ci­sion.

“On 26 March, Mr. Mandille Al­cee –In­vest­ment Ser­vices Of­fi­cer of In­vest St. Lu­cia is­sued a sworn state­ment to the po­lice on the mat­ter.

“On 30 March, Ms. Nancy Charles, Direc­tor of In­vest­ment co­or­di­na­tion and Sec­re­tary to the Trade Li­cence Ad­vi­sory Board is­sued a sworn state­ment to the po­lice on the mat­ter.”

In con­clu­sion the Min­is­ter of Com­merce stated that she had acted within the author­ity of the law, and at all times acted on the ad­vice of the tech­ni­cal staff/public of­fi­cials.

“Equally, of­fi­cials from In­vest St. Lu­cia and the var­i­ous Min­istries could only make rec­om­men­da­tions based on the in­for­ma­tion at hand, none of which, at the time, gave any valid and com­pelling legal rea­son for deny­ing Lam­birds Academy the li­cences which it re­quired to op­er­ate in Saint Lu­cia,” she ended by say­ing.

Emma Hip­ployte on her way to the House of As­sem­bly on Tues­day.

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