By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Peter Nygard’s US attorneys have alleged that two Judicial Review actions challenging construction activity at his Lyford Cay home are part of a wider conspiracy involving the Free National Movement (FNM).
Marc Kasowitz, in an October 20 letter to the southern New York district court, is claiming that “the real purpose” of the actions is to prevent Mr Nygard rebuilding his home until the Opposition party purportedly supported by his neighbour, Louis Bacon, is returned to power in the Bahamas.
The letter, obtained by Tribune Business, alleges that once the FNM is elected, Mr Bacon will be able to “use his influence” to shut down efforts to rebuild Nygard Cay permanently.
Mr Kasowitz, a partner in the Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman law firm, offers no evidence to substantiate the allegations he is making on Mr Nygard’s behalf.
They were contained in a letter that described efforts to examine more than 1,000 hours of Nygard-related video footage, currently in the possession of a ‘whistleblower’, as “a colossal waste of time and resources”.
Mr Bacon, and the Save the Bays/Coalition to Protect Clifton environmental activist group, want to obtain access to Stephen Feralio’s video footage via subpoenas they are seeking from the New York courts.
They believe it could provide evidence for seven cases currently before the Supreme Court, including five defamation actions by Mr Bacon, and the two Judicial Review proceedings launched by Save the Bays/the Coalition over construction/development work at Nygard Cay.
Mr Nygard and his companies, though, are arguing that it should be the Bahamian Supreme Court - not the New York courts - who decide on whether Feralio and his evidence are admissible in the seven actions.
Attorneys for Mr Nygard and Mr Bacon/Save the Bays have, respectively, been reviewing the videos produced by Mr Feralio for the past several weeks to determine what material - if any - is relevant to the seven Bahamian actions, and what should be disclosed.
Mr Kasowitz, though, described most of the footage produced to-date as “irrelevant”, and urged that the ‘scope’ of discovery be narrowed to speed up the process.
However, he did not hold back in alleging that the two Judicial Review actions launched by the Save the Bays environmental advocacy group were part of a plot designed to ultimately benefit Mr Nygard’s ‘arch rival’, Mr Bacon.
Mr Kasowitz, in his letter to the New York court, called for Feralio to “prioritise” production of video files related to the two Save the Bays’ Judicial Review actions “challenging the Government’s decisions concerning permits for construction work at Nygard Cay”.
He argued that Feralio’s video files lacked any evidence related to Mr Nygard’s controversial expansion of his Lyford Cay home, which Save the Bays claims has been done without the proper permits and approvals, and communications with Bahamian government officials over this.
“While we do not believe that Feralio possesses any such evidence, which is supported by the fact that Feralio produced nothing remotely fitting this description to-date, the Judicial Review actions are the most time sensitive of the Bahamian actions,” Mr Kasowitz wrote.
“Petitioners [Mr Bacon] and Save the Bays should not be allowed to use the continued pendency of this proceeding to delay adjudication of those actions, which we fear may be the real purpose of this action.”
Then, identifying the alleged conspiracy, Mr Kasowitz added: “We are concerned that petitioners are using the Judicial Review actions to stay approval of reconstruction at Nygard Cay until the Bacon-supported political party is re-elected in the Bahamas, at which point Bacon can use his influence to try to permanently cease that reconstruction in a further effort to punish Mr Nygard or coerce him into selling his property to Bacon, which Mr Nygard will not do.”
The ‘conspiracy’ or ‘plot’ theme, and allegations, against Mr Bacon are nothing new. But Mr Kasowitz’s letter has now dragged the Opposition FNM into the battle, further fuelling the political tensions swirling around the Nygard situation which, up until now, have only surrounded the Government.
When contacted by Tribune Business for comment, Fred Smith QC, Save the Bays’ legal director, denied all the conspiracy allegations made by Mr Nygard and his attorneys. He promised a more detailed response today.
Mr Kasowitz, meanwhile, in his letter to the New York court, described the “thousands” of videos and photos delivered to his law firm by Feralio as “patently irrelevant” to the seven Bahamian legal battles.
He revealed that the material produced to-date includes beach volleyball and regattas at Nygard Cay, press conferences involving Bahamian Olympic teams, and “private parties and social events at Nygard Cay”.
“Our attorneys have had to spend - and are spending - dozens of hours each week reviewing these irrelevant files to prepare appropriate objections and confidentiality designations to be asserted should the court grant the application [by Mr Bacon and Save the Bays],” Mr Kasowitz alleged.
“The fact that these videos are all stolen property, and much of it is proprietary, confidential and personal to our clients, makes this application an abuse of process.
“That virtually none of the files are material to the claims being pursued in the Bahamian actions, and that Feralio estimates his review will take three more months, makes this exercise a colossal waste of time and resources.”
Mr Kasowitz, in an October 17 letter to the US attorneys representing Mr Bacon and Save the Bays, called for discovery in the case to be narrowed.
In particular, he called for information relating to communications between Mr Nygard and Bahamians government officials to be narrowed to contacts relating to construction activities, and related permits, at Nygard Cay.
And Mr Kasowitz described as “irrelevant” information sought on “payments, donations, gifts, presents, favours, monies, assistance or other consideration to current or former public officials or employees or their relatives”.
Mr Kasowitz described it as a “plainly improper fishing request”, and could only be directed to officials who dealt with permit applications relating to Nygard Cay,
And he added that information sought in relation to Nygard Cay was “hopelessly overbroad” and needed to be struck out, as only documents/videos showing construction work and related permits were relevant.