By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
DESPITE the Free National Movement’s suggestions on the campaign trail that the now unsealed Baha Mar documents may have been troubling, Attorney General Carl Bethel said Thursday that the documents contain nothing “unusual” that would prompt the government to renegotiate its terms.
Speaking to The Tribune yesterday, Mr Bethel also said the agreement doesn’t infringe on Atlantis’ most favoured nation status.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced on Tuesday night in Parliament that the heads of terms relating to Baha Mar’s sale was approved for release by the Supreme Court last Thursday, before he tabled the agreement, which he said fulfilled a campaign promise by the governing FNM.
However, he added that other “sensitive” documents relating to the sale remain under a court seal.
“We said if there was anything untoward or conflicts of interest with these people we would renegotiate,” Mr Bethel told The Tribune when he was contacted. “But there is nothing that calls for renegotiation. There is nothing particularly unusual in the documents.”
He also said: “And concerning the joint promotional commitment, well that’s the same thing that occurred with Atlantis. So there is nothing that infringes on the most favoured nation agreement.”
The tabled heads of terms said Bahamians who owned and held shop leases and concessions in the Baha Mar project were permitted by the China Export Import Bank (CEXIM) and the preferred purchaser to continue to hold them under the existing terms and conditions.
It further allowed for up to 1,200 work permits to be issued to China Construction America (CCA) and 30 work permits for all necessary staff of the asset special purpose vehicle (SPV) during the remobilisation and construction phase.
The project was also to benefit from exemptions of value added tax and import taxes of goods and services for completion.
The document again raises questions about conflicts of interest and whether former Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson was too closely connected to negotiations to get the shuttered resort open.
In 2015, she revealed that her husband Maxwell Gibson owns the retail jewellery store chain that had been granted storefront leases in Baha Mar. At the time, she rejected accusations that she had a conflict of interest due to her role as government negotiator for the stalled resort.
Mrs Maynard-Gibson’s revelation came in a statement released four days after she initially said her two daughters, 28 and 30, had leases to operate stores in Baha Mar while she was a guest on the More 94 FM talk show “Real Talk Live”. Mrs Maynard-Gibson revealed her daughters’ connection to the resort and Prime Minister Perry Christie’s knowledge of the matter.
However, earlier this year, she and former Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald dismissed tabloid accusations of abuse of power and conflict of interest as election season smear tactics.
Both former ministers were alleged by a tabloid to have entered into secret “sweetheart” deals connected to the mega-resort and its new buyer Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE) that would see them allegedly net “unlawful private profits” in the millions.
The heads of terms noted: “Further, the government expects that Bahamian citizens owning and holding shop leases and concession in the project will be permitted by CEXIM and the proposed purchaser to continue to hold them on the same terms and conditions as currently exists.
“The asset SPV agrees to enter into new lease agreements on terms of the shop leases held by said Bahamian citizens no less favourable than the existing leases.
“Further CEXIM agreed to encourage the proposed purchaser to support and honour those said Bahamian citizens owning and holding such shop leases provided by the BML companies, their related entities and affiliates shall not be entitled to participate in the process referred to herein.”
Regarding construction concessions, the agreement said the government was to waive stamp duty and VAT on the transfer of assets from the BML companies to the SPV group - including any stamp duty or VAT that would otherwise be payable by CEXIM and/or any member of the SPV group on the creation, enforcement, settlement, waiver and/or release of any security – and on the funding arrangements for the SPV group and on the creation, enforcement, waiver and/or release of related security.
The Christie administration released the heads of agreement—which detailed many concessions given to the property—with Baha Mar and the government at the end of April.