The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT -

Over the last few weeks, In­vest Saint Lu­cia has lis­tened with con­cern to the plethora of com­men­tary and con­jec­ture per­tain­ing to the Lam­birds Academy af­fair. Mind­ful of the po­ten­tial dam­age to in­vestor per­cep­tion of our is­land, In­vest Saint Lu­cia wishes to re­lease this state­ment to clar­ify its role in this rather un­for­tu­nate is­sue.

It is now com­mon knowl­edge that on Fri­day March 6th 2015, the po­lice ar­rested and charged a num­ber of per­sons con­nected to Lam­birds Academy in­clud­ing one Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Shams for var­i­ous hu­man traf­fick­ing of­fences, re­sult­ing in the clo­sure of the Academy. Since then, the public has right­fully taken a keen in­ter­est in this mat­ter par­tic­u­larly with re­gards to the estab­lish­ment of the Lam­birds Academy here in Saint Lu­cia.

Whilst ev­ery cit­i­zen has a right to en­quire and to be right­fully con­cerned about this mat­ter, ISL is of the firm view that we must not be too quick to draw in­valid in­fer­ences and to ac­cept, with­out more, base­less ac­cu­sa­tions and false con­clu­sions.

As it stands, the charges against the agents of Lam­birds Academy are still al­le­ga­tions, which are to be de­cided by a jury and it is in­deed im­proper to try this mat­ter in the court of public opin­ion.

In­vest Saint Lu­cia can thus speak only to mat­ters re­lat­ing to the facts of the in­vest­ment process and the truth, which th­ese facts ad­mit. It can be cat­e­gor­i­cally stated that In­vest Saint Lu­cia did NOT specif­i­cally in­vite Lam­birds Academy to Saint Lu­cia, but Lam­birds Academy ac­cepted a gen­eral in­vi­ta­tion, is­sued on­line and in the lo­cal, re­gional and in­ter­na­tional me­dia, to at­tend the in­au­gu­ral Saint Lu­cia In­vest­ment Fo­rum in May 2014.

Fur­ther, there was never and has not since been any at­tempt by In­vest Saint Lu­cia to hide the facts or ob­fus­cate in­for­ma­tion re­lated to the mat­ter. In­vest Saint Lu­cia’s only in­ter­est has been to en­sure that the es­tab­lished pro­cesses for in­vest­ment fa­cil­i­ta­tion and estab­lish­ment are fol­lowed and in­deed, not only have we stead­fastly main­tained that po­si­tion but had on sev­eral oc­ca­sions com­mu­ni­cated to Iftekhar Shams, prin­ci­pal of the erst­while Lam­birds Academy, the need to abide by the es­tab­lished rules, reg­u­la­tions and laws ap­pli­ca­ble to the estab­lish­ment of his busi­ness.

The en­su­ing fa­cil­i­ta­tion process was there­after con­ducted ac­cord­ing to law and within the pre­scribed pro­ce­dures. The req­ui­site due dili­gence pro­to­cols were fol­lowed and re­turned noth­ing ad­verse ei­ther in re­la­tion to Lam­birds Academy, which had al­ready es­tab­lished a pres­ence in the USA, or to its agents. In­vest Saint Lu­cia’s statu­tory fa­cil­i­ta­tion du­ties were adopted with the req­ui­site ap­pli­ca­tions sub­mit­ted to the var­i­ous reg­u­la­tory agen­cies for con­sid­er­a­tion and ap­proval.

In­vest Saint Lu­cia, on May 22nd 2014, con­sis­tent with its statu­tory fa­cil­i­ta­tion du­ties, sub­mit­ted an ap­pli­ca­tion for a Trade Li­cence on be­half of Lam­birds Academy, to the Trade Li­cence Board for con­sid­er­a­tion. When ad­vised by a se­nior of­fi­cer of ISL, af­ter com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the Min­istry of Com­merce etc., that the said Board had not met in months and was un­likely to meet in the near fu­ture, In­vest Saint Lu­cia, pursuant to sec­tion 7 of the In­vest Saint Lu­cia Act Num­ber 14 of 2014, re­sub­mit­ted the ap­pli­ca­tion, on June 2nd 2014, di­rectly to the Min­is­ter for her con­sid­er­a­tion.

The ap­pli­ca­ble pro­vi­sions of the said Act read as fol­lows:

Pow­ers of Min­is­ter 7.- (1) Notwith­stand­ing any other law in force in Saint Lu­cia, the Min­is­ter shall, in re­la­tion to any key niche eco­nomic sec­tor men­tioned in sec­tion 5, have the same power and author­ity, as those of the rel­e­vant Min­is­ter to process an ap­pli­ca­tion made by an in­vestor for – (a) fis­cal in­cen­tives un­der the Fis­cal In­cen­tives Act, Cap. 15.16 and to sub­mit the rec­om­men­da­tions to Cabi­net; (b) trade li­cences un­der the Trade Li­cences Act, Cap. 13.04 and to grant such li­cences; c) work per­mits un­der the Labour Act, No. 37 of 2007 and to grant such work per­mits; (d) tourism in­cen­tives un­der the Tourism In­cen­tives Act, Cap. 15.30 and to sub­mit the rec­om­men­da­tions to Cabi­net.

(2) An in­vestor who de­sires to ob­tain- (a) a fis­cal in­cen­tive un­der the Fis­cal In­cen­tives Act, Cap 15.16; (b) a trade li­cence un­der the Trade Li­cences Act, Cap 13.04; (c) a work per­mit un­der the Labour Act, No. 37 of 2007; (d) a tourism in­cen­tive un­der the Tourism In­cen­tives Act, Cap 15.30, in re­la­tion to a key niche eco­nomic sec­tor men­tioned in subsec­tion (1) shall sub­mit his or her ap­pli­ca­tion through In­vest Saint Lu­cia to the Min­is­ter.

(3) The Min­is­ter may del­e­gate his or her power to process an ap­pli­ca­tion un­der subsec­tion (1) to the chair­per­son un­der such terms and con­di­tions as the Min­is­ter de­ter­mines and a copy of the ap­pli­ca­tion must be for­warded to the rel­e­vant Min­is­ter and the Prime Min­is­ter.

It is worth not­ing that Lam­birds Academy was a law­fully in­cor­po­rated body un­der the laws of Saint Lu­cia, and, as no fault can be laid at the door of the Reg­istry of Com­pa­nies for in­cor­po­rat­ing Lam­birds Academy, or on the at­tor­ney who swore the statu­tory dec­la­ra­tion to fa­cil­i­tate the in­cor­po­ra­tion, so too, no calumny or op­pro­brium should be levied at In­vest Saint Lu­cia or its per­son­nel for fa­cil­i­tat­ing the said com­pany. In­deed, In­vest Saint Lu­cia was not, at the ma­te­rial time, seized with any valid and com­pelling legal rea­son to re­frain from fa­cil­i­tat­ing Lam­birds Academy.

The in­vest­ment process is de­signed to al­low an in­vestor to legally es­tab­lish a prima fa­cie le­git­i­mate busi­ness and is not de­signed to de­tect an in­vestor’s crim­i­nal in­tent in the op­er­a­tions of that au­tho­rized busi­ness. As Chief Jus­tice Brian (of the United King­dom) once pro­claimed: “that the in­tent of a man can­not be tried, for the Devil him­self knows not the in­tent of a man”.

It is our view there­fore that the process of law­fully es­tab­lish­ing Lam­birds Academy (as an in­sti­tu­tion) is not the is­sue. The real is­sue to be determined is whether the law­fully es­tab­lished Lam­birds Academy was used to carry out an il­le­gal en­ter­prise.

If there is in­deed such a crim­i­nal in­tent, the ma­chin­ery of gov­ern­ment, through its in­ves­tiga­tive agen­cies did de­tect the al­leged crim­i­nal­ity and for that we are most thank­ful. How­ever, in ac­cor­dance with the Rule of Law, due process should be fol­lowed and jus­tice be done even if the heav­ens fall.

It thus rings true that “Progress is the ex­plo­ration of our own er­ror” and so, what is now ma­te­rial, is for us to re­view our sys­tems and pro­cesses to de­ter­mine where best they can be strength­ened so as to avoid such a re­cur­rence in the fu­ture.

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