SOCU was investigating ‘Big Head’ for money laundering
-after multi-million dollar investments
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.