Pros­e­cu­tion out­lines se­cret pay­ments made by Sandals to Turks and Caicos min­is­ters

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

Caribbean News Now con­trib­u­tor

On Tues­day, the sev­enth day of his open­ing state­ment on be­half of the pros­e­cu­tion in the crim­i­nal trial of for­mer Turks and Caicos Is­lands (TCI) premier Michael Misick and oth­ers, An­drew Mitchell QC con­cluded his out­line of a land trans­ac­tion that al­legedly de­frauded the TCI govern­ment of mil­lions of dol­lars and then turned to Beaches Re­sorts, a sub­sidiary of Sandals Re­sorts In­ter­na­tional.

Specif­i­cally, he re­ferred to ev­i­dence that Unique Va­ca­tions Inc. (UVI), a com­pany in Mi­ami, Florida re­spon­si­ble for reser­va­tions, book­ings and col­lec­tion of pay­ment for va­ca­tion pack­ages, as well as all ad­ver­tis­ing, mar­ket­ing and pro­mo­tion of Sandals, made pay­ments di­rectly to a num­ber of peo­ple or en­ti­ties in­volved in this case.

Ac­cord­ing to Mitchell, be­tween Au­gust 2005 and De­cem­ber 2010 a to­tal of around $1 mil­lion was paid to Pres­ti­gious Prop­er­ties, a lo­cal real es­tate firm in which Michael Misick held a 20 per­cent share­hold­ing, along with his two brothers Philip Misick (20 per­cent) and Wash­ing­ton Misick, the cur­rent TCI min­is­ter of fi­nance (60 per­cent).

“[Pres­ti­gious Prop­er­ties] ap­pears to have op­er­ated not only as real es­tate firm but also an en­tity that would hold money for and on be­half of in­di­vid­u­als. In par­tic­u­lar, [Pres­ti­gious Prop­er­ties] held a ‘client ac­count’ for [Michael Misick],” he said

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Michael Misick and Sandals, which en­com­passed land sales at sig­nif­i­cantly less than full mar­ket value, a $1.5 mil­lion con­ces­sion­ary re­duc­tion in stamp duty and the grant of Be­longer­ship to Sandals’ owner Gor­don ‘Butch’ Ste­wart, was tainted, the Crown says, by pay­ments made on Misick’s be­half to Pres­ti­gious Prop­er­ties.

In 2006, Beaches wished to ex­pand the ho­tel prop­erty by build­ing a com­plex on the ad­ja­cent land. This ex­pan­sion was to be known as ‘the Ital­ian Vil­lage’.

Pay­ments were made by UVI to Michael Misick’s brother and co-de­fen­dant Chalmers Misick client ac­count on: 6 March 2006 ($200,000); 10 March 2006 ($150,000); and 29 March 2006 ($150,000).

Chalmers & Co pro­vided no le­gal ser­vices to Unique Va­ca­tions, the payer, Mitchell pointed out.

On 17 Septem­ber 2010, Chalmers & Co re­sponded to Patterson Mair Hamil­ton, a Ja­maican firm of at­tor­neys act­ing on be­half of Sandals, that the $500,000 re­ceived on be­half of their client was a political con­tri­bu­tion made by Patterson Mair Hamil­ton’s client to as­sist with fund­ing the re-elec­tion cam­paign of the PNP govern­ment.

How­ever, the 6 and 10 March 2006 pay­ments were in fact ap­plied to pay for Michael Misick’s wed­ding to Lisa Raye Misick as she was to be­come.

On 9 June 2006, Crown Land parcels were trans­ferred to Beaches for $700,000 and, as a re­sult of a price re­duc­tion, Beaches saved some­thing in the re­gion of $862,000.

Beaches also se­cured a re­vised de­vel­op­ment agree­ment, again grant­ing the en­tire re­sort sig­nif­i­cant com­mer­cial con­ces­sions in­clud­ing con­sent to build the Vil­lage to six storeys (the ini­tial agree­ment was two storeys) and to in­crease the foot­print of the build­ing from 4.7 acres to over 7 acres. For a pe­riod of 20 years the re­sort was granted full ex­emp­tion from any fu­ture taxes on prof­its, gains, turnover, fu­ture prop­erty tax, cap­i­tal levy, and other taxes on cap­i­tal in­vested. The de­vel­op­ment agree­ment also af­forded the re­sort a re­duc­tion to 5% of cus­toms im­port du­ties for a pe­riod of 25 years and a full ex­emp­tion from all taxes, du­ties or levies on ho­tel pro­mo­tional lit­er­a­ture for the life of the de­vel­op­ment.

Then Gov­er­nor Richard Tauwhare con­sid­ered the con­ces­sions went too far, Mitchell said, but Michael Misick held the view that the de­vel­op­ment should be en­cour­aged as Beaches was the big­gest source of tourism in the is­land. How­ever, Beaches stood out, as far as the Crown’s case is con­cerned, as par­tic­u­larly gen­er­ous com­pared to other de­vel­op­ment agree­ments.

“We re­state once more: a political de­ci­sion made hon­estly is one that is ac­count­able at the bal­lot box. A political de­ci­sion made when there are pay­ments be­ing se­cretly made to the maker of that de­ci­sion is one that en­gages the crim­i­nal law. That is what this case is about, and Beaches is an ex­am­ple of it,” he said.

On 26 Oc­to­ber 2006, Sandals made a pay­ment of $150,000 to Misick & Stan­brook, which was then sent by Misick & Stan­brook by cheque to the Pro­gres­sive Na­tional Party (PNP).

On 18 Jan­uary 2007, an­other $362,332 was paid by Sandals to Misick & Stan­brook and, on 22 Jan­uary 2007, $350,000 was trans­ferred to the PNP ac­count.

It is clear, Mitchell sub­mit­ted, that Beaches knew what they were do­ing and the pay­ments re­late to the con­spir­acy count be­tween Michael and Chalmers Misick in re­spect of money laun­der­ing, and the use of the PNP ac­count by way of do­na­tions not be­ing ap­plied for the proper pur­pose, and the use of the ac­count to laun­der money.

“All of the pay­ments were se­cret . . . it is quite clear what lies be­hind the re­la­tion­ship and was kept se­cret. Th­ese were pay­ments to pro­cure ad­van­tages, which re­sulted in loss to TCI govern­ment and the peo­ple by stamp duty, value of land,” Mitchell said.

He then turned to Salt Cay, a small is­land two miles long by one mile wide. His­tor­i­cally dur­ing the 19th cen­tury the is­land pro­duced nat­u­ral salt on an in­dus­trial scale. Much of the is­land was un­oc­cu­pied Crown Land, with a pop­u­la­tion of be­tween 100 and 130 per­ma­nent res­i­dents.

There is no doubt, Mitchell said, that the pro­posed de­vel­op­ment on Salt Cay was to be on an im­pres­sive and grand scale, with pro­posed in­vest­ment of over $600 mil­lion. Fur­ther, the re­sort would have brought no doubt a lot of pub­lic­ity and me­dia at­ten­tion to the TCI and brought em­ploy­ment thereby cre­at­ing a good op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple of this coun­try.

“…it also pre­sented [Michael Misick] and [McAl­lis­ter Hanchell] in par­tic­u­lar with a good op­por­tu­nity to ob­tain money,” he as­serted.

Ac­cord­ing to Mitchell, the ev­i­dence shows that within a cou­ple of months of meet­ing the de­vel­oper, a Slovakian banker by the name of Mario Hoff­man, Michael Misick and McAl­lis­ter Hanchell en­tered into a re­la­tion­ship that can only be de­scribed as cor­rupt, that was to thrive be­tween them for a pe­riod of three years dur­ing which they per­son­ally re­ceived quite as­tound­ing amounts of money.

Michael Misick was the ben­e­fi­ciary of a “loan” of $6 mil­lion, and other monies. For­mer min­is­ter and code­fen­dant McAl­lis­ter Hanchell ben­e­fit­ted in ex­cess of $2 mil­lion. The loans were never to be re­paid.

Pay­ments into the PNP ac­count alone ex­ceeded $750,000, which was quickly dis­persed to the ad­van­tage of Michael Misick and McAl­lis­ter Hanchell (and to a lesser ex­tent Floyd Hall, Lil­lian Boyce and Jef­frey Hall, all for­mer min­is­ters and co-de­fen­dants).

Michael Misick’s brother, Thomas Chalmers Misick, acted as, for want of a bet­ter phrase, per­sonal banker and laun­dered mil­lions of dol­lars of crim­i­nal prop­erty for all of their ben­e­fit, Mitchell as­serted

The pay­ments ap­pear to co­in­cide with con­ces­sions be­ing granted and, in one of the trans­ac­tions be­tween the Crown and the de­vel­oper, the Misick ad­min­is­tra­tion sold 122 acres of Salt Cay at half its value thereby los­ing the TCI govern­ment $6.83 mil­lion.

Ria Taitt Trinidad Ex­press “Join a gang. It is bet­ter than fam­ily.”

This was the poster which a stunned Sen­a­tor Gerry Hadeed saw as he passed through ‘a bad area’. “I was flab­ber­gasted,” he told the Se­nate. “We have got to en­gage the youth. We have got to find things for them. Could we not have a na­tional ser­vice for youths who may want to go into the var­i­ous arms of law en­force­ment and have ser­vice for them, which may in­volve do­ing work in things like re­for­esta­tion, and any­thing that could get them in­volved in be­ing part of the so­ci­ety?” he said. The Se­nate was de­bat­ing a mo­tion on sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment. He said Govern­ment had to find ways of get­ting the young boys into a more pro­duc­tive way of life since most of the young boys and men in the coun­try were at risk.

“We can­not con­tinue to have them fall through the cracks,” Hadeed said. “Be­cause where do they end up? You see it in the news­pa­pers and it is a sad sight,” he said, sug­gest­ing that they be­came ei­ther the vic­tims or per­pe­tra­tors of crime. Hadeed ap­pealed to the Govern­ment to re­move VAT on sta­ples and to use the school feed­ing pro­gramme to feed the poor. He also urged Govern­ment to use the $90 mil­lion al­lo­cated for Brian Lara Sta­dium to open the Couva Hos­pi­tal.

PNM Sen­a­tor Foster Cum­mings said it was time for a na­tional dis­cus­sion on youths liv­ing in at risk ar­eas. “They gave a lot of at­ten­tion in the me­dia to neg­a­tives and the is­sues of crime com­ing out of th­ese ar­eas . . . Ev­ery­body knows that there is a prob­lem. Maybe it is time for us to en­gage . . . dis­cus­sion on how do we tar­get and deal with the spe­cific prob­lem in cer­tain ur­ban cen­tres. Am I talk­ing about Sealots, Laven­tille?” he said.

Re­fer­ring to the mur­ders of two stu­dents of Suc­cess/ Laven­tille Sec­ondary School, 16-year-old Mark Richards and 17-year-old Deneil­son Smith, Cum­mings said: “We were all taken aback when we lost two young boys on the out­skirts of Port of Spain. And the na­tional dis­cus­sion started and fin­ger point­ing took place . . . But it all points right back to the ques­tion of poverty and education,” he said.

Cum­mings told Hadeed that the Couva Hos­pi­tal would not stand empty for five years be­cause the PNM would not do what the UNC did to Brian Lara Sta­dium. “We value the peo­ple’s money,” the PNM Sen­a­tor said.

Cum­mings said he of­ten passed through Ch­agua­nas, “the back road by the Po­lice Sta­tion which takes you to the court”, and there is a “mas­sive stor­age” of mil­lions of dol­lars worth of PVC pipes stock­piled there. He said he was in­formed that the pipes were sub­stan­dard and could not be used, even though they were paid for with tax­pay­ers’ money.

Cum­mings said while he heard Hadeed’s call for the Govern­ment not to dis­card ev­ery­thing as­so­ci­ated with the Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship, the prob­lem this ad­min­is­tra­tion had was that “ev­ery­time you try to ex­am­ine one of the poli­cies (of the PP), you must get side­tracked with the cor­rup­tion in­volved in the process. It is in­escapable. Ev­ery pro­gramme, plan you look at, the first thing that hits you in the face is the cor­rupt prac­tices that were in­volved.”

De­fence Force sol­diers seen here ac­com­pa­ny­ing the po­lice on joint pa­trols in the Laven­tille Road, Laven­tille area fol­low­ing a spate of vi­o­lence which left sev­eral dead in­clud­ing two school boys.


For­mer Turks and Caicos Is­lands premier

Michael Misick.

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