By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Director of Labour yesterday confirmed he has launched an investigation into the infamous Fyre Festival debacle, having received “numerous complaints” from Bahamian vendors and workers who have not been paid.
Speaking with Tribune Business, Robert Farquharson confirmed that the Department of Labour’s Exuma office late last week received numerous complaints from Bahamians who had been employed at the ill-fated Exuma-based festival.
“They have received numerous complaints from Bahamians who were employed at the festival in Exuma, and have not received their statutory entitlements as required under the Employment Act,” Mr Farquharson said of the Exuma office.
“I have launched an investigation into the matter to determine who is responsible for having persons paid. The office in Exuma received claims late last week, and are investigating to determine who should have been paid and how much. There are a number of complaints.”
Mr Farquharson told Tribune Business it was difficult to say just how long the investigation would take. “We have a very good team down in Exuma, and once we determine the employer responsible there are multiple routes we could take,” he added.
“If the employer refuses to pay there is remedy under the Industrial Tribunal or Magistrate’s Court, depending on how much is owed.”
Several vendors who spoke with Tribune Business yesterday expressed outrage and disappointment that they were owed, in some case,s more than $100,000 for work done in preparation for the festival.
Billy McFarland, a 25-year-old technology entrepreneur, who founded Fyre Festival in partnership with hip hop artist, Ja Rule, spent millions on models, private jets and yachts to promote the event, which likely led to a cash crunch.
The duo have been slammed with multiple lawsuits in the debacle’s wake, and their problems seem to be mounting by the day, with US media yesterday reporting that Fyre Festival now faces a criminal probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in conjunction with the US attorney’s office for south New York.
Fyre Festival-goers, some of whom had paid $12,000 per head, found none of the promised infrastructure, accommodations and attractions were in place when they arrived on Exuma, while many of the advertised bands had pulled out.
The Ministry of Tourism subsequently emphasised that it was not a sponsor of the event, and therefore had no financial involvement, but its previous press releases described it as a “partner” of Fyre Festival, and the liaison with all relevant government and local government entities to ensure the organisers obtained the necessary permits.
The Ministry of Tourism’s director-general, Joy Jibrilu, told this newspaper earlier this month that officials were in the process of determining which Bahamian vendors were still owed money by event organisers, adding that Fyre Festival’s promoters had assured all outstanding debts will be paid.
Mr McFarland’s comments to his own employees have raised significant doubts about that, but attempts to obtain further comment from the Ministry of Tourism have been unsuccessful.