The Buccament Bay Resort – Is it an Unfair Pecuniary Advantage?
Submitted by Nathan ‘Jolly’ Green
These two laws shown just how serious a matter they are considered by the Courts.
Obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception:
A person who by any deception dishonestly obtains for himself or another person or entity, any pecuniary advantage shall on conviction on indictment be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
The Theft Act:
(1) A person who by any deception dishonestly obtains property belonging to another, with intent to permanently depriving the other of it shall on conviction on indictment be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.
(2) For the purposes of this section, a person is to be treated as obtaining property if he obtains ownership, possession, or control of it and ‘obtain’ includes obtaining for another or enabling another to obtain or to retain.
Regarding the current Buccament deal. What I think we need to consider here is if the action was taken by the Unity Labour Party Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, or if the work later described herein are the effects of a few government ministers acting on their own accord. We must also consider if an action at law will remedy what has taken place and is about to be compounded.
Most of what I now present is not accusing anyone of wrongdoing but is a timeline or chronology of the facts, the historical past of Buccament. Nothing is meant to infer or imply, expressly, or otherwise that the people named or identified acted improperly or illegally. I am not a judge or jury. I cannot say what is right or wrong but do have personal opinions, which sometimes are wrong.
Ralph Gonsalves and Dave Ames
Buccament Bay Resort came about by the government accepting a developer without carrying out proper due diligence on the main parties involved in developing and building Buccament Bay Resort. The man David Ames carried out a massive fraud on those investing in the resort. Those investors were mainly British retirees who wanted to buy into a complex to spend their holidays at and get an income from and to own an individual villa at the resort.
At one-point, Ames used members of the SVG Government and the prime minister’s wife to convince a large group of British investors to invest in Buccament. I doubt Mrs Eloise Gonsalves or the others from SVG had any idea at the time that the investors would be defrauded and lose their retirement nest egg, and in some cases their life savings.
On July 13th and 14th, 2009, the Grove Luxury Hotel in Watford, England, was filled with about 2,500 actual and potential investors, tourism marketing and travel agency executives and government officials for Harlequin Hotels and Resorts grand launch of three of their resorts. See the video within the article link below:
But what made things worse for the situation is when Mrs Gonsalves got paid what some describe as a large sum of money to design the interior and supply the furnishings to the show house models on the site. Questions were asked about when was that contract agreed upon? Because it looked very much like it was linked to the deal of Harlequin acquiring the land from the government. Of course, we cannot say it was because that is not our place to guess about. What I can tell you, shortly after finishing the show home fit-outs, Dave Ames had it all ripped out and refurnished without further input from Mrs Gonsalves. So, the expensive show homes fit-outs and furnishings were discarded.
In February 2013 BBC reporters alleged Dave Ames of Harlequin and Buccament Bay resort had bribed Ralph Gonsalves. Naturally, as could be expected, Gonsalves denied the allegations. Gonsalves never sued the BBC, and no litigation ensued, it died a death. Vincentians were shell shocked and horrified that their beloved and respected Prime Minister could have such allegations made against him.
Ralph Gonsalves then blamed the opposition party NDP’s chairman and president, Arnhim Eustace for telling the BBC the story about bribery. The Honourable Mr Eustace denied such accusations and publicly called Gonsalves a liar.
Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace said he had instructed his lawyers to demand an apology from Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves over statements he made on a radio programme earlier this month. Eustace, speaking on the radio, said that his attorneys were also instructed to file a lawsuit seeking damages if Prime Minister Gonsalves, an attorney, refuses to apologise.
2013, December 25, Buccament: Buccament Bay Resort is built in and on an ancient flood plain. On this day, the Buccament River flooded, and members of staff drowned. In the picture Ricky Small cries for the loss of his dear wife Josselle whose life was taken by the raging waters at Buccament Resort.
Read the commentaries at –
2016, Buccament Bay Resort Harlequin Hotels and Resorts’ Buccament Bay closed to guests and the public on December 14, 2016. A spokesman said fewer than 40 guests were staying at the 195-property resort at the time. Interim Receiver appointed.
In 2019, Kelly Glass and his consortium tried to put a deal together with KPMG the receivers, and that fell through due to the complexity of the ownership situation. A court protection order has protected some of the villa’s freeholds. Several different people own the property, buildings, and land. No one could get an agreement with them all at once.
Now in July 2020 PM Ralph Gonsalves announces he has now acquired all the property and the government is currently holding it as one unit which enables him to sell it unencumbered. He has entered a contract to sell it to Sandals.
What is really worrying is that Gonsalves has said that he has come to agreement with some of the creditors and others have a year to make a claim. But the claim will be against the government of SVG, there will be no claims against Sandals because they have a clear clean title. So, the property has been moved sideways and SVG is responsible for any future claims, is that an acceptable risk? Because if SVG did nothing they would not have any risk.
Gonsalves has not said so, but I believe the only way he can do this deal is via a series of compulsory purchase orders. The problem is that the Act for Compulsory Purchase is not designed to put together a deal to sell a resort and surrounding lands to a resort developer and owner.
The Act is primarily to be used to acquire land for public use and to be owned by the government, such as roads, road widening, public-owned airport like Argyle.
I am now asking the Prime Minister Dr Ralph E Gonsalves, have you used compulsory Purchase to do this deal?
Adam Stewart said that in January 2020, he and his father and Camillo and Ralph met in Miami “and put this deal more or less together”. Does that clarify that the property was not offered on the open market? Was this then a negotiated deal between Butch Stewart and his son, and Ralph Gonsalves and his son. Was this once again Gonsalves acting alone with no government oversite.
Getting away from that, here is my problem. Suppose the land and property at Buccament is now being sold free of encumbrances and claims. Has it since been advertised for sale to all qualifiable comers, has it been offered publicly, internationally? Because it has never been offered before unencumbered, this is a new deal and may interest several prospective buyers. But a contract has been pre negotiated with Sandals, which may well give them a pecuniary advantage over the different groups, individual owners, and other qualified resort owners who remain uninformed of the availability of the now unencumbered resort. Taken from the hands of the Receiver, bought by the government of SVG, and sold by the government to Sandals Ralph Gonsalves and Butch Stewart without giving any other party the opportunity of offering or bidding on the deal, it does not sound right to me.
Can it be in the best interest of all the creditors, and those with a legal call on payment from the sale of the resort? Are they getting the best payment possible?
My mind is taken to the Rotarians four-way test:
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
It has nothing to do whether it is a good deal for SVG, SVG holds no investment in the property, hundreds of British citizens do, and they were robbed from the start. I hope none of them are being robbed at the finish.
Any loss to SVG was caused by the original deal with Dave Ames who turned out to be something other than what we expected. Ralph Gonsalves granted him and his family citizenship in SVG, the same Vincentian nationality Gonsalves keeps telling us is not for sale at any price. If only due diligences were properly carried out on Dave Ames, SVG would not be owed money for the NIS, VINLEC, VAT, or for anything else, and hundreds of old folks would not have been robbed. Under the receivership rules the government would have got nothing because there will be insufficient funds. What is important under the Gonsalves deal, does the government get paid and in doing so water down what is due to preferential creditors?
Gonsalves is a brilliant orator and can sell snow to Eskimos. It will be fascinating to see the full deal, the structure, and if any of the parties involved in the ownership have an advantage over anyone else.
We know that Vincentian landowner Mr Bernard Punnett and his sister owns much of the site; what they get cannot be dictated to, they are in the most influential position. I doubt they are part of any compulsory acquisition.
So, in finishing –
We have only been told the briefest details about the Buccament Bay Resort deal. The rest we must guess and stab about in the dark. Like all these matters half stories, half-truths, and lack of transparency, has been a problem from the very beginning. Then having to rely on what we are told by a man that is known to tell lies.
But we must also remember, and never forget, the resort at Buccament is built in and on an ancient flood plain. Despite a river protection wall having been built by Harlequin prior to the flooding, when it flooded last in December 25, 2013, several resort employees were drowned. It can flood again, and it will, as it has done for millions of years. Ralph Gonsalves knows that, I hope he told the Stewarts before they signed the contract, unless there is a buyer beware clause. Because SVG may just be inline for more litigation, but this time with serious people.
Hence is this an SVG Government deal or not? Is it ultra vires, fraudulent or illegal?