Liquidator targeting Govt’s $720k oil fee

Some $720,000 in oil exploration license fees that were paid to the Bahamas Government are being targeted by a Cayman-based liquidator, who has written to two Cabinet ministers seeking their assistance in recovering the funds.

Christopher Johnson, managing director of Chris Johnson & Associates, indicated to Tribune Business that the monies were potentially among the best recovery sources for investors in Ryan Bateman’s B & C (Bateman & Company) Ltd.

He revealed that he has written to both Kenred Dorsett, minister of the environment and housing, and Allyson Maynard-Gibson, the attorney general, to obtain their help in recovering the funds for what is a court-supervised liquidation.

Mr Johnson, in an e-mailed statement in response to Tribune Business inquiries, said he was targeting the $720,000 paid to the Government by two companies, Atlantic Petroleum Ltd and Bahamas Exploration Ltd, to acquire the oil and gas exploration rights for an 848,630 acre site in water north of Grand Bahama.

“As the court appointed joint provisional liquidator of Bateman and Company Ltd, I am inquiring as to what has become of monies invested by that company and several investors who sent their monies to Bateman and Company Ltd, a company formerly controlled by Ryan Bateman,” Mr Johnson

“In turn, these monies were - or should - have been invested in a Cayman company, NPT Oil Corporation Ltd, whose two Cayman subsidiaries, Atlantic Petroleum Ltd and Bahamas Exploration Ltd, paid $720,000 to the Bahamas Government in July 2009 for licensing certain offshore exploration rights. It is possible that further monies have been sent to the Government and this, too, is being investigated.”

Mr Johnson told Tribune Business that the petition to wind-up Bateman & Company is due to be heard by the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands this week, hence his desire to obtain information on the status of any Bahamas-based assets.

“We need to ascertain whether the Government still holds the monies, the amounts and whether they are refundable,” he said.

“I have seen no correspondence and no signed agreements, and certainly the companies have not commenced any drilling, and nor do they have the funds to do so.”

Mr Johnson added: “I have sought the assistance of the Honourable Minister, Kenred Dorsett, and the Attorney General to help me in the matter in order that I may appraise the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands when the petition to wind up Bateman and Company Limited is heard next week.

“Bateman and Company Limited is insolvent, and we are trying to recover as much as possible for those who were unfortunate to invest their monies with the company.”

Mr Dorsett, who has ministerial responsibility for oil and mineral exploration activities in the Bahamas, did not return Tribune Business’s numerous e-mails and phone calls seeking comment.

There is no suggestion that Mr Dorsett, other members of the current Government or persons in the former Ingraham administration have done anything wrong in relation to Mr Bateman, Bateman & Company Ltd or the oil/gas exploration licence fees.

Questions regarding Mr Bateman, who is now understood to be in Florida, and his companies were raised last year during the House of Assembly debate on the Petroleum Bill and other legislation designed to facilitate oil exploration in Bahamian waters.

Mr Bateman even sent Mr Dorsett an e-mail to defend himself against the allegations raised by Opposition leader, Dr Hubert Minnis, who had accused the Canadian of being “known to swindle” clients out of their money.

The e-mail, which was read by Mr Dorsett, said: “There has never been a regulatory investigation into Bateman & Company or its business. We have just most recently completed an annual audit as required by the Cayman Monetary Authority.”

The first sentence is now subject to doubt, given the court-supervised nature of the liquidation. Mr Bateman, though, told Mr Dorsett in the e-mail that during his 15 years in the exploration business, which involved international and domestic oil and gas companies, several companies which he invested in went on to make world-class discoveries.

Dr Minnis did not return Tribune Business calls and e-mail messages seeking detailed comment on the latest developments involving Mr Bateman, although he acknowledged he was aware that the Canadian’s company was being placed into liquidation.

“Bateman is bankrupt and court liquidators appointed,” the FNM leader said briefly. “Dorsett never got back to us about Bateman and my concerns.”

Dr Minnis last year said the Government had granted approval for seven licenses to be issued in January 2015 to Atlantic Petroleum Ltd and Bahamas Exploration Ltd for oil exploration.

Responding to the allegations, Mr Dorsett conceded that he knew of Mr Bateman, but added that it was the former Ingraham administration that began talks with him and accepted the $720,000 to begin the licence application processes.

“With relation to the companies that he refers to, I find it of interest because it was their administration that accepted $720,000 from both Mr Rainwater and Mr Bateman, when they were in power, to begin the processing of the applications,” the Minister said.

“So it began under their watch. They processed the applications (and) held on to the money, Mr Speaker, from 2008. Almost three quarters of a million dollars they held, then indicated to the gentlemen that they lost the cheques and asked them to come back with fresh cheques in January of 2012, which they deposited again with the purpose of proceeding to process the application.

“The draft licenses, the leases (and) everything was in my file, so I don’t want the member to sit here and say that this is something that this administration began. This began under the Free National Movement administration between May of 2007 to 2012, and the member for Killarney sat around the table during that time. So let me just set the record straight.”


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