Former Prime Minister Perry Christie.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
FORMER Prime Minister Perry Christie said he is unaware of any impropriety or irregularity related to his administration’s acquisition of nine Royal Bahamas Defence Force vessels from a Dutch group.
“The result of the contract has been a transformative and defining improvement in the operational efficiency and effectiveness of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force in its policing of our waters and the protection of our marine resources,” he said in a statement yesterday.
His comments came after The Tribune reported last week how investigators in the Netherlands are examining whether the Damen Shipyard Group, which supplied the vessels, bribed foreign officials in multiple jurisdictions through their foreign agents.
The Dutch inquiry involving the Bahamas centres on commissions Damen paid to its intermediary, NSG Management & Technical Services LTD, a company whose website said it performed “procurement, supply and commissioning projects in the region (including with) the government of the Bahamas for the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.”
Damen is said to have paid NSG much more than five percent out of its contract with the Bahamian government, raising red flags with its external auditor, EY, and Dutch investigators. The Dutch inquiry grew out of information provided by the World Bank and EY. The World Bank disbarred Damen in 2016 for 18 months after concluding the company engaged in a fraudulent practice by failing to disclose an agent and the amount of commissions due to the agent when it submitted its bid in early 2013 for the supply of a fisheries patrol boat under the West Africa Regional Fisheries Programme in Sierra Leone. The Caribbean aspect of the Dutch inquiry was launched after investigators raided Damen’s offices in Gorinchem and Rotterdam in January 2017, seizing large amounts of administration and digital data.
“My government’s payment was to Damen Shipyard Group and not to anyone else,” Mr Christie said in his statement. “The process was a transparent one involving a tender process and negotiations. Moreover, the Attorney General’s Office and our legal advisors in Washington — Hogan and Lovell — played major roles in the finalisation of the contract.”
The Christie administration’s contract with Damen was worth more than what the Ingraham administration planned for the acquisition before leaving office in 2012.
The former Centreville MP cited four reasons for this: “The construction of a specially designed landing craft for use in natural disasters…major repair and restoration of two vessels that were out of use and in a state of deterioration… provision of a simulator for use in training officers in command positions of defence force vessels and transformative dredging works for the better berthing and accommodation (of vessels).”
Mr Christie said the Minnis administration, “which is in possession of the files,” should provide full information to the public without delay.
“I would suggest that the public officials involved in this matter be called upon to publicly confirm whether they are aware of any influence-peddling or politically-connected lobbying or other improper or irregular conduct involved in the contract awarded to Damen Shipyard Group,” he said.