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Probe Into Defence Force Vessels Deal: Bahamas $150m Contract Caught In Dutch Inquiry

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

THE Netherlands is investigating alleged bribery involving the Christie administration’s acquisition of nine defence force vessels in 2014 and has been receiving co-operation from local officials for its investigation since June of last year.

Dutch officials suspect corruption related to the shipbuilding services this country received from Damen Shipyard Group (DSG), which is based in Gorinchem, Netherlands.

The Christie administration borrowed $149m in 2014 for DSG to build nine defence force vessels as part of its Sandy Bottom Project which aimed to enhance the capacity of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.

The Tribune understands that the Dutch investigation centres on commissions the government paid to NSG Management & Technical Services Ltd, a company based in Barbados that acted as DSG’s agent to the Bahamian and Trinidad & Tobago governments.

The Bahamas paid NSG $13m in commissions between 2014 and 2016. This included $6.6m in 2014, $4.7m in 2015 and $2.94m in 2016. The commission fees represented more than 12 percent of DSG’s total contract value - and that raised red flags among officials.

Investigators also obtained documents showing that DSG’s external auditor, EY, raised concerns over the contracts. EY believed the commissions were too high and noted they exceeded the five percent of a contract’s value prescribed by DSG’s own internal documents.

Auditors also struggled to determine what work NSG performed to warrant the commissions. When they tried to audit the company, NSG was non-cooperative, The Tribune understands.

The Dutch began a global corruption investigation into DSG in 2015 based on information received from the World Bank and EY.

Investigators raided DSG’s offices in Gorinchem and Rotterdam in January 2017, seizing large amounts of administration and digital data. It was those materials that sparked their investigation into DSG’s alleged bribery of public officials in the Caribbean.

NSG’s beneficial owner is Stephen Robert Hobson, a UK citizen living in Barbados.

Auditors, reviewing NSG’s financial statements for 2014 and 2015, found that the company paid $11.8m in 2014 and 2015 to SRH Consultancy Services Inc.

According to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ offshore leaks database, SRH Consultancy services Inc was registered in The Bahamas and Stephen Robert Hobson was listed as its director/president.

According to investigators, Mr Hobson refused to give insight into the reasons for the transfers, with the transfers vaguely described as being for consultancy fees and commissions in NGC’s books.

The anti-corruption division of the Dutch National Prosecutor’s Office for serious fraud, environmental crime and asset confiscation is leading the investigation.

In May 2018, Dutch officials requested that Bahamian representatives attend a July 2018 co-ordination meeting involving officials from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago and The Bahamas. It is not clear if any Bahamian official attended the meeting.

Attorney General Carl Bethel declined to comment yesterday.

Keith Bell, the former State Minister for National Security, said he found the allegations baffling.

“Nothing of that nature was ever brought to my attention,” he said when contacted.

Comments

joeblow 4 weeks, 1 day ago

This former pirate stronghold is so used to corruption that we are surprised when it does NOT happen!
I bet 'Brave' knows nothing about this!

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Godson 4 weeks, 1 day ago

You are well informed. And since you feel the need to give away money, I accept your bet for an infinite amount, that is, your bet as it relates to 'Brave'. The connection, indeed, is Trinidad.

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SP 4 weeks, 1 day ago

OMG! Who could have thought otherwise?

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Sickened 4 weeks, 1 day ago

I think every government contract especially under the PLP is a BIG red flag.

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BahamaPundit 4 weeks, 1 day ago

The reason this country looks like a dump and is 9 billion in debt is Government contracts are used to launder funds; they are shams used to hide the theft.

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Dawes 4 weeks, 1 day ago

If there's anything wrong they will just look for a fall guy, and then have the police do an investigation for a couple of months to make it look like they are actually doing something (like the BEC one a couple years ago). Whilst all along they really would only have to ask the Dutch (this time last time it was the Americans and French) who did what wrong. Then it will be back to normal.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Nothing at all will come of this just like all of the other instances of massive fraud that have been covered up by the more corrupt senior politicians within the PLP and FNM alike. D minus educated Bahamians struggling to make a dollar and keep the government from taking it away from them just don't give a damn. The Bahamas is done, and it's too late for anyone to do a damn thing about it. Just imagine what's been going on at BPL/BEC....and what life will be like in the Bahamas in just a few years from now.

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Islandboy242242 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Yet the Freedom of Information Act is still just sitting on someone's desk catching dust. Not sure it would matter in this regard but it's still the fact of the matter - if we talk like we want to do better then let's do better; instead we just store these issues away in our playbook to whip out the next time the PLP accuses the FNM and vice versa.

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sealice 4 weeks, 1 day ago

OMG the PLP caught in a bribery scandal who would have thought such a thing could happen??

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Be rest assured....PLP and FNM governments are just two sides of the very same coin of massive fraud, corruption, waste and mismanagement. The Symonette family is still laughing all the way to the bank with the paving contracts at airports, the new main post office lease of Town Centre Mall, etc., etc. Minnis is no different than Christie and Ingraham before him and Poodling before all of them. They've perfected the art of making examples out of the small fry, like L. Rolle and her photo pin awards recently; meanwhile they turn a blind eye to the really big things going on that they go to extraordinary lengths to cover up and pray we learn nothing about.

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Bahamianbychoice 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Look what happens as well to the "whistle blowers" in this country. They are targeted and every attempt is made to destroy their reputation. Most recently with Osborne, Thompson, Dean, Davis and Alston at BPL. Terrible...

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TalRussell 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Why is that the Dutch Inquiry into the Dingy Vessels deal is an attempt by Imperialists red shirts to attempt revive stale Baguette. .... yes, no ... Comrade AG Carl Wilshire has never reported back on the more fresher alleged immigration bribe inquiry of which he and the Commish were said be investigating .... Why is that, guessing that even though a year has passed since the OBAN files were said to have mysteriously (conveniently) gone missing - no progress updates as to status of the investigation are being provided to the populaces at-large .... You don't make stuff like this why is that that it sure seems likes some investigations have much lower urgency priorities you just cant!

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John 4 weeks, 1 day ago

The only persons fingers are being pointed to thus far are non-Black, non-Bahamians. so were Bahamians hoodwinked and bamboozled out of scarce, hard-earned tax payer's money. The government should demand that the 7% excess money be paid back. Who was it that paid for a jet that was never delivered? Bahamian governments hire consultants who overcharge them or set them up to be ripped off But red (or red and white) flags were raised when the purchase number of ships decreased by two and the price either increased or remained the same. And you would be surprised at the number of Bahamians and Bahamian businesses that have this experience where they are either overcharged, required to pay deposits that are not returned or get ripped off when they are required to prepay for goods and their goods are never shipped or the wrong items are shipped.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Wow! So you think our black governments are too easily taken advantage of by all of those white foreigners whenever they have to negotiate with them, but yet you believe our black governments are not too dumb to govern us. Not sure where you're headed with that line of thinking.

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John 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Obviously you think I am dumb enough to be your messenger lackey. You spur your racial beliefs and feelings and hatred for foreigners and everyone but yourself. Posting your opinions over other peoples' names. And, fortunately, (or unfortunately), that even includes your mother. No one is off-limits with you. And yes, Bahamians head the lists when it comes to you spurning hate-filled messages and degrading posts. Stop being a coward and say clearly what it is you wanna say. They must pay you well to do what you do, but most people still see you as a hate-filled idiot.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Come, come John. Resorting to playing that tired 'ole race card and throwing darts at my mother of all people is most unbecoming of you. Now I know you must be off of your meds again. And you of all people should know The Tribune is not paying me nearly as much as it should for my efforts in trying to keep the likes of you enlightened. ROWL

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licks2 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Not so Mr. John. . .the company that got 8+ million is here in the Bahamas. . .with Bahamian stakeholders. . .the white man's company is in Barbados. . .Bahamians are suspects in getting kick-backs!! Bernard Nottage was recorded as saying that he extra 13+ million was for possible scope changes that was likely to come from the contract!! Nottage, Bell and Christies are directly responsible for that baby!! 8= million came back into this country. . .to whom they don't know as yet. . .the Bahamian representatives failed to appear the meeting called by the Dutch!!

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birdiestrachan 4 weeks, 1 day ago

This investigation is taking place after all of these years. It seems as if the FNM Government is trying to shift the focus off their poor performance

.something like the trump and Biden story.

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B_I_D___ 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Read Birdie...read!! This is not a Bahamian initiated investigation. Dutch authorities prompted the investigation. It's being worked by the Dutch Serious Fraud Office and they approached us for whatever assistance we could provide. It ain't no FNM witch-hunt.

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joeblow 4 weeks, 1 day ago

@ B-I-D Birdie is a PLP. They are allergic to reading and understanding facts, especially if it relates to the PLP!

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TalRussell 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Read on further ma comrade BID, nor was the alleged appearance immigration corruption a locally initiated investigation, yes, no ... truth be told the allegations were initiated by sworn testimony during a criminal trial before a US Court of Justice ....at minimum, shouldn't the populaces at-large not have been given an update .....

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BigD1 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Tal can you ever respond to the subject at hand without bringing up another subject which seems to be your way to deflect criticism or scrutiny. I was always told answering a question with a question is quite rude.

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TalRussell 4 weeks, 1 day ago

I get it ma comrade Big, you means like when colony's prime minister's evasion of immigration enforcement, reincarnation for likes twentieth time - be's threatening tougher Work Permits enforcement, yes, no .... What is it with this PM ....

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BigD1 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Tal, you do realize this article is about an international probe into the contract for the purchased Defense Force Vessels right?

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SP 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Let's not forget the "Sandy Bottom" deal was initiated by Hubert Ingraham and concluded by Perry Christie, so this Dutch investigation exposes collaborative piracy in the PLP AND FNM!

This also exposes why the PLP and FNM are always eager beaver to use foreign consultants and why both parties find it impossible to pass the Freedom of information act. If we had the ability to investigate, we would most likely find that massive graft and corruption runs hand in hand with every foreign consultancy they ever used!

Billions of our tax dollars have been stolen by these "honorable pirates". Meanwhile, nothing here works properly, we continue suffering the highest cost of living in the hemisphere, these pirates continue taking turns raping us with a smile and promises of "Bahamians first" and "It's the people's time".

We the people should be rioting in the streets and surgically removing the PLP AND FNM as far away from governance as humanly possible!

We need two new parties. NOW!

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licks2 3 weeks, 6 days ago

I suggests that you go and read too. . .the PLP were the only ones had they hands on any money concerning this deal!! LBT just come on the air and told we that FNM them were buying them boats for far cheaper. . .then the PLP come around and add "pocket money" that served as kick back them Dutch suspect. . .so stay a lil balanced here ma fella. . .

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