By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Prime Minister Perry Christie and government officials have been videotaped meeting Peter Nygard at his Lyford Cay home and discussed construction activities at the property - the same activities that are being challenged as unlawful in two separate court actions.
The disclosure, contained in an October 22 letter from attorneys representing a Nygard ‘whistleblower’, has been seized on as “potentially critical evidence” by legal advisers for the Save the Bays environmental advocacy group, which has brought the Supreme Court actions.
The ‘evidence’ is detailed in correspondence from Steven Feldman, a lawyer for ‘whistleblower’ Stephen Feralio, who dismissed claims by Mr Nygard’s attorneys that reviews of his client’s video footage were “a colossal waste of time and resources”.
Suggesting that Feralio’s video footage does indeed contain material relevant to Save the Bays’ Judicial Reviews, Mr Feldman said he and his client “do not understand how the Nygard parties can claim..... that we have produced ‘nothing remotely fitting’ evidence related to Nygard’s communications with Bahamian officials regarding his permitting and building activities at Nygard Cay”.
Explaining why this was so, Mr Feldman then revealed: “Among the materials we produced were approximately 19 video files memorialising a visit by the Prime Minister of the Bahamas and other officials to Nygard Cay, where they met with Peter Nygard and the subject of construction at Nygard Cay was discussed.”
The letter, filed with the southern New York district court, provides no details on the nature of the ‘construction discussions’, but confirms that they have been captured on video.
Given that Feralio’s videos only cover the past two years, and that ex-Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham is known to have kept his distance from Mr Nygard, the leader referred to in Mr Feldman’s letter can only be Mr Christie.
There is nothing to suggest the Prime Minister did anything wrong during his visit to Nygard Cay, or ‘construction discussions’ with Mr Nygard, but the fact the subject was raised is likely to raise eyebrows over whether the meeting was appropriate, especially since the Government was already embroiled in litigation against the Canadian fashion mogul over the expansion of his home.
Indeed, Mr Feldman’s letter only raises more questions, and drags the Government ever-deeper into the growing controversy over Mr Nygard’s construction activities - a controversy unlikely to go away any time soon.
Save the Bays is alleging that previous construction activities at Nygard Cay, which have almost doubled the property’s size to just over six acres, are unlawful because they lacked the necessary government permits and approvals.
The ‘pressure group’ is further claiming that Mr Nygard’s activities have negatively impacted the environment in the Clifton Bay area and his neighbours’ properties. To-date, they have successfully blocked all applications by Mr Nygard for new construction permits.
The Christie administration is understood to be increasingly keen to extricate itself from the fight between Mr Nygard and Save the Bays, and the revelation that sensitive discussions involving the Prime Minister have been recorded may unnerve some in the Government.
This is because they do not know what is on those videos which, more to the point, may enter the Bahamian court and public domain if Save the Bays and Mr Nygard’s neighbour, Louis Bacon, are successful in getting approval from the New York courts to access them.
Orin Snyder, a US attorney representing both Mr Bacon and Save the Bays, told the southern New York district court that Mr Nygard’s attorneys were “proffering a false narrative” in alleging that none of Feralio’s video files had produced evidence relevant to the seven Bahamian court cases.
Mr Bacon, and Save the Bays/Coalition to Protect Clifton, want to obtain access to 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.
“Nygard seeks to tarnish the production effort by referencing videos of volleyball games, regatta races and private parties at Nygard Cay,” Mr Snyder wrote.
“Although we have not seen these videos, Feralio believes they are responsive, and they may well contain relevant evidence concerning, for example, the disputed coastline, the groynes, and the dredging machinery; the expansion of Nygard Cay over time; Nygard’s motives for expanding the beach; and additional witnesses who may be familiar with Nygard’s environmentally destructive activities.”
Then, seizing on the letter from Feralio’s attorneys, Mr Snyder said: “Indeed, as Feralio’s counsel points out, Feralio’s productions include 19 video files concerning a meeting between Nygard and Bahamian officials (including the Prime Minister) during which construction at Nygard Cay was discussed - a potentially critical piece of evidence that Nygard’s letter fails to disclose.”
Meanwhile, Feralio’s attorney also suggested that his client had produced evidence “significant” to Mr Bacon’s five defamation actions before the Bahamian Supreme Court.
The hedge fund magnate, who is Mr Nygard’s ‘arch rival’, is seeking evidence on who allegedly orchestrated a smear campaign against him, believing his Lyford Cay neighbour to the person responsible.
This has been repeatedly denied by Mr Nygard, but Mr Feldman alleged: “Our last production of 445 files included numerous responsive documents that, despite our status as a non-party, appear to be significant to the pending Bahamian litigations as they connect Nygard to the Bacon smear campaign.”
And he reveals that this week’s release of videos by Feralio will allegedly show Mr Nygard directing the campaign against his Lyford Cay neighbour.
“This week’s production that we will distribute tomorrow [yesterday] will include videos involving Peter Nygard communicating about the smear campaign,” Mr Feldman warned.