By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
ATTORNEY Fred Smith, QC, has accused Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard of “unadulterated outright bribery” of the Progressive Liberal Party.
Mr Smith made the accusation based on documents, submitted to the Supreme Court Tuesday, which have revealed that Mr Nygard, pictured, tried to get former Prime Minister Perry Christie to assist him in solving several issues concerning his property and expansion plans in exchange for his near $50,000 contributions to the PLP at the time.
A letter from Mr Nygard to Mr Christie, then the minister of agriculture, trade and industry on July 10, 1992 shows how the billionaire requested Mr Christie to assist him in bringing a “few housekeeping matters” concerning his property to a “speedy final conclusion.”
And those housekeeping matters, Mr Nygard suggested, should be considered along with the understanding that up to that point in time, he would have contributed a total of $45,000 “to the party and some of its members,” a figure the fashion mogul said Mr Christie would agree was “quite significant.”
Those “housekeeping matters” ranged from Mr Christie making Mr Nygard’s request to have Crown property included into his land and deeded to him a “legal fact” and for Mr Christie to arrange to have it done via his attorney to Mr Christie securing a certification of the government approving the name change of his property from Simms Point to Nygard Cay.
The latter request, Mr Nygard said in the letter, was so that by the time Forbes magazine would go there to do a story on July 17, and when Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous would later hold a “shoot”, the name “Nygard Cay” would be official and those entities could “use it in the promotion of the Bahamas and Nygard Cay.”
“I would of course proudly display the certificate on the wall of my present house,” Mr Nygard added.
And as the clincher to the favours he was calling in, Mr Nygard wrote: “Obviously this whole world is based on one hand helping the other and you know that I am prepared to do whatever is in my capacity to help out the Bahamas and the PLP party and of course yourself in any way I can.”
Mr Smith presented the letters and other court documents for the attention of Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Bain this week.
Mr Smith said fast forward to May 14, 2012, some seven days after the PLP won the general election, Mr Nygard “wasted no time” in reaching out to Mr Christie, who was serving his second non-consecutive term as prime minister, for his “reconsideration” of his previous applications for development and maintenance plans at Nygard Cay.
The letter, penned by Mr Nygard’s attorney Melissa Hall, outlines Mr Nygard’s solicitation to the former prime minister for a “continuous dredging permit” for the removal of the build-up of sand on his property; approval for the installation of berms for beach erosion, protection of the marina and the northern shore to protect the property; and approval for formal Crown lease of the bed of the sea for all areas coloured pink on a plan enclosed with the letter.
Ms Hall also noted in that letter that Mr Nygard was seeking to further develop Nygard Cay by virtue of an investment in the amount of $50m. The sum would result in a development that would employ 200 Bahamians, however, the letter said the venture would be “subject to your favourable reconsideration for the mentioned applications.”
Mr Smith said the contents of Mr Nygard’s two letters to Mr Christie were tantamount to “unadulterated outright bribery,” and that based on the letters, Mr Nygard felt he had the latter “in his pocket.”
Mr Smith further submitted that Mr Nygard’s 2012 letter was him calling on the prime minister to “make good” on what he alluded to in his 1992 letter.
Mr Smith also hit out at the “sham” the government conducted via the consultation process it embarked upon concerning Mr Nygard’s $50m reconstruction efforts, which, according to a Tribune Business article in April 2013 that Mr Smith brought to the court’s attention, were for the construction of a stem cell research-focused medical facility at his home.
According to court documents, the government issued a public notice on June 18, 2014 concerning Mr Nygard’s reconstruction plans, however, that public notice was in reference to building permit number 116140, which was for “rebuilding fire damaged structures” at Nygard Cay at an estimated cost of $2,644,400, with a payable fee of $3,325.
Meanwhile, a letter dated June 7, 2012 from Joy Jibrilu, then-director of investments, stated how the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) would “revert in due course” to Mr Nygard’s request for the installation of berms and a Crown lease of the sea bed contained in his May 14, 2012 letter to Mr Christie concerning his $50m venture.
That letter by Mrs Jibrilu also noted that the BIA was looking forward to receiving details of the $50m proposal to “enable us to process your request.”
According to a letter to then permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister David Davis on August 28, 2010, Mr Nygard said Monte Carlo International Limited had made an application on his behalf for the reconstruction of his residence that was destroyed by fire on November 1, 2009.
However, Mr Smith stated in court that there has been no discovery of an application for the reconstruction of Mr Nygard’s property for $50m.
The aforementioned court documents and consequent submissions by Mr Smith came during court proceedings stemming from Mr Nygard’s ongoing battle with Save The Bays over allegations the construction/development activities at his Lyford Cay home have led to a substantial growth of the property.
The group claims Mr Nygard has almost doubled the size of his property, from 3.25 acres to 6.1 acres, since he acquired it in 1984, by allegedly reclaiming Crown land from the sea.