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Jerome: My family’s firm was at Baha Mar

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Jerome Fitzgerald has finally confirmed to Tribune Business that his family’s company did perform work at the $4.2 billion Baha Mar project, but not for the developer or any of its affiliates.

The Minister of Education, Science and Technology said Bahamas Cargo & Logistics had “very little” contact with Baha Mar under its original developer, Sarkis Izmirlian, in an e-mail sent just hours before this newspaper revealed his efforts to win business for the company.

The e-mail, which was sent to Tribune Business at 11.30pm on Wednesday night, well after press deadline, came in response to this newspaper’s article the same day, which printed the Minister’s denial of any link between Bahamas Cargo & Logistics and Baha Mar.

Mr Fitzgerald chastised Tribune Business for dragging him into a ‘he says/she says’ row with The Punch tabloid newspaper, and failing to ask him the correct questions.

“Why didn’t you simply ask me what, if any relationship, the company had with Baha Mar group of companies? I would have said very little,” Mr Fitzgerald wrote.

“I’m not saying the company [Bahamas Cargo & Logistics] wasn’t doing any trucking out there; I’m just saying the person who gave you the information may not have realised that Baha Mar or any of its affiliates wasn’t the customer. But no one wants to take the time to find out or ask the right questions.”

Mr Fitzgerald did not identify who the “customer” for Bahamas Cargo & Logistics was, although it could well have been Baha Mar’s main contractor, China Construction America (CCA), or any of the sub-contractors that were engaged.

His confirmation came after an e-mail exchange with Tribune Business the previous day. This newspaper was not seeking to get Mr Fitzgerald into a ‘he says/she says’ argument, having pointed out to him that it had reported Bahamas Cargo & Logistics’ involvement at the Baha Mar project in a January 2017 article.

Tribune Business, at the same time as it revealed that Baha Mar’s construction completion was entirely VAT-free, had also been informed that Bahamas Cargo & Logistics was one of the main customs brokers at Baha Mar.

One former Baha Mar employee, well-placed to know the project’s financial affairs, wrote in a letter to The Tribune on the VAT affair: “Is this Baha Mar Ltd VAT exemption really something new? The truth is no, it’s not new, because Baha Mar Ltd was enjoying this prior to Chapter 11 and I am surprised that Jerome Fitzgerald did not mention this as he well knows this through his family customs brokerage, as it was one of the two main customs brokers for Baha Mar Ltd, the other being Elite Logistics with Jude Smith.”

That went unanswered at the time, and Mr Fitzgerald’s e-mail shows that his father’s firm was not working for Baha Mar. But the Minister did not finally clarify the role of his family’s customs brokerage and trucking business until late Wednesday night, having passed up several chances on Tuesday to do so.

The Minister yesterday sought to downplay and dismiss revelations of his e-mail contacts with Mr Izmirlian, which effectively show him using his Cabinet post for private advantage, lobbying for business for both Bahamas Cargo & Logistics and his family’s limousine business.

While not denying the authenticity of the e-mails, Mr Fitzgerald attempted to deflect from their content by stating that his lobbying of Mr Izmirlian, and requests for the developer to get him business from CCA, never resulted in Bahamas Cargo & Logistics gaining any business.

“I have no contract with Baha Mar or any of its affiliates, nor do I own any shares in Bahamas Cargo & Logistics, which is a company formed by my father many years ago,” he said in a statement.

“Sarkis Izmirlian and I have communicated on any number of matters over the past eight years, either in person or by e-mail. Prior to my father’s illness he had engaged in discussions with Baha Mar to get some work. After my father’s illness, I wrote to Sarkis to follow up on those discussions and seek his assistance. Nothing came of it and that remains the case today.”

The timing of the revelations concerning Mr Fitzgerald is particularly poor from the Government’s point of view, given the upcoming general election.

They also distract attention, and take some of the shine away, from today’s ‘soft opening’ of Baha Mar and the hiring of 1,500 Bahamians - an event the Government plans to use to justify its actions since Mr Izmirlian filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2015.

Mr Fitzgerald’s statement yesterday sought to draw the public’s focus back to these positives, saying: “The Bahamian government moved quickly and decisively to bring the matter home to protect the interests of Bahamian employees and contractors.

“Tomorrow is a big day for our country. The opening of Baha Mar is bringing thousands of jobs for Bahamians, will strengthen our economy, and will raise our nation’s profile internationally.

“I’m very proud of the role the Government played in saving the resort from bankruptcy and getting it the hands of a world-class operator with successful properties across the Caribbean and the world.”

The e-mails between Mr Izmirlian and Mr Fitzgerald, though, are likely to reignite questions over the Government’s handling of the Baha Mar dispute, and its motives for siding with the Chinese (and two companies owned by the Beijing government) against Mr Izmirlian.

Concerns over ‘conflicts of interest’ are already being raised, and whether the Government’s decision to intervene in a private commercial dispute by opposing the Chapter 11 filing was really motivated by what may have been divulged in the US courts.

Comments

Porcupine 7 years ago

How low can we set the bar for decency and honesty? Jail time, sir.

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IslandJefe 7 years ago

A national embarrassment.

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Bahamaland 7 years ago

Fritz and Gibson were the Chief negotiators but for who...themselves or the Bahamian people?

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ThisIsOurs 7 years ago

Mr Fitzgerald doesn't get it. The first email request was the breech. Everything else was just gravy

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Economist 7 years ago

Many Bahamian Lawyers don't honour the idea of "conflict of interest". Fitzgerald appears to be one of them.

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Sickened 6 years, 12 months ago

Are you also talking about that lawyer who is current building in Sandy Port and who represents the biggest debtor to the homeowners association and who is trying to also get on the board of the homeowners association? She sees no conflict there either. Some lawyers are disgraceful!

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birdiestrachan 7 years ago

This story is becoming very stale, They should hurry and see if they can find something like mud to fling Election time is near and they will have to try again to see what they can do to help "Roc with doc" Even if he wins they will throw him out and Mr: Symonette and Dr: Sands will take over. They were always against him.

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DDK 7 years ago

Story not stale. Just HEATING up and you, sir, are rambling.

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CuriousAbaconian 7 years ago

Birdie, please go fly away...

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sheeprunner12 7 years ago

The Nomination Day "assets & liabilities" information submitted by Jerome Fitzgerald and Shane Gibson should be used as the foundation on which to conduct a comprehensive forensic audit of their TRUE monetary worth as part of the upcoming FNM Royal Commission of Inquiry .......... and use those election submissions to send their teefin asses to JAIL .......... They have been the worst examples of the PLP Cabinet (along with Brave, BJ, Gray, Glenys & DocDarville) ........... The two Perrys are in a separate category under the title - WUTLESS

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Sickened 6 years, 12 months ago

PLEASE stop calling Mr. Davis 'Brave'! He is anything but!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 6 years, 12 months ago

As a black Bahamian I can truly say, albeit with great embarrassment, that this lying corrupt greedy piece of .......... (a/k/a Toxic Fumes Fitz) defines the 'N' word! Perry Christie and Bradley Roberts' failure to replace him with another candidate for the Marathon constituency tells us all we need to know about them and the PLP party. Toxic Fumes Fitz has no ability to discern right from wrong. He doesn't have the foggiest idea what constitutes a grave conflict of interest giving rise to criminal conduct. The man belongs behind bars, period!

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Reality_Check 6 years, 12 months ago

Sarkis Izmirlian certainly has good grounds for a civil action against Fitzgerald and likely Perry Christie, Allyson Maynard-Gibson and Baltron Bethel. If Sarkis doesn't pursue a civil action it will be only because he was duplicitous in some of the earlier on shenanigans involving Baha Mar and the government. As for Justice Winder, he should be removed from our Supreme Court.

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concernedcitizen 6 years, 12 months ago

He is PGC ,Lady P ,and AMG bagman ..plain and simple .B Bethel is beginning to forget the details ,like where is the money . The emails were basically a shake down ,either the contracts for trucking/customs that we can over bill to get some of the Chinese loan or 20gs a month ..that's what his soul is worth .I,m not against FDI but the money should go in the treasury not the PLP,s pockets .They are a well oiled criminal organization ,and all they have to do to win election is shout "whitey bad " as they hob nob around the world w whitey and get by selling out our country high end property in whiteys neighborhoods around the globe

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OMG 6 years, 12 months ago

You have to question B Strachan's mud comment when schools have been renamed, some clinics refurbished, land cleared for a so called mini hospital in Eleuthera,Bahaimar opened to free guests , more sudden hirings just before the election. Talk about Hypocracy.

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ohdrap4 6 years, 12 months ago

you forget the nhi 'registartion' starts tomorrow.

my doctor of record told me he has joined nhi, he also said they are at least one year away from starting it.

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Socrates 6 years, 12 months ago

Fitzgerald says he didn't get any business despite the lobbying.. does that make it okay then? if i kill someone but dont get caught, is it okay?

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concernedcitizen 6 years, 12 months ago

he basically said in the emails if I don,t get the business and can overbill I want 20gs a month for my soul

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BahamaPundit 6 years, 12 months ago

When he says he doesn't own shares, he is just saying the shares are held in a trust. This is an old lawyer trick. What a hoax.

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