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Bob's Aid To Miller 'Above And Beyond'

Leslie Miller

Leslie Miller

By Neil Hartnell

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Bank of The Bahamas yesterday said it "went above and beyond" in trying to help Leslie Miller and his family remedy $25-$28m worth of loan facilities that had been "seriously delinquent for years".

The BISX-listed financial institution, in a statement issued to Tribune Business via its attorney, vehemently denied the ex-Cabinet minister's claim it had been involved in "a malicious and unlawful conspiracy" to seize his Summerwinds Shopping Plaza off Tonique Williams Highway, which had been pledged as security for the loans.

The bank also pointed out that Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson's verbal pre-Christmas ruling only involved Mr Miller's dispute with the Government, not his claims against Bank of The Bahamas or its defence. She is now due to give her written ruling on January 17, 2020, as to whether leases allegedly entered into between the Government and former MP are legally valid and binding.

"The allegations made by Mr Miller and his co-plaintiffs against Bank of The Bahamas have been categorically denied by the bank in its defence," the BISX-listed institution said through its attorney, Gail Lockhart-Charles.

"The bank firmly contends that the plaintiffs’ [Mr Miller and his family] allegation that the bank was a participant in a malicious and unlawful scheme to injure the plaintiffs is wholly without merit, and should in fact be struck out on the grounds that it is frivolous or vexatious, and/or it is otherwise an abuse of the process of the court.

"As stated in its defence, the bank went above and beyond what could reasonably be expected of it or any bank to assist the plaintiffs to rehabilitate their seriously delinquent facilities which had been non-performing and in arrears for years. The bank maintains in its defence that, as prudent bankers, the Bank had no reasonable alternative but to cease providing further advances to the plaintiffs."

Damian Gomez QC, the ex-minister of state for legal affairs who is representing Mr Miller, confirmed to Tribune Business over the Christmas holidays that Justice Grant-Thompson that the Government's alleged lease of the Summerwinds Plaza was a binding contract.

The Attorney General's Office has already filed to stay the ruling, and for leave to appeal, but Mr Gomez said: "She didn't give her reasons, and said she would do that subsequently, but she ruled in favour of the application we made.

"She struck out the defence on the basis it was frivolous, vexatious or an obvious abuse of process. In light of their [the Government] submissions, they really have no defence."

Bank of The Bahamas, though, yesterday sought to clarify that this did not apply to itself or its dispute with Mr Miller and his family. "Justice Grant Thompson has given no ruling, verbal or otherwise in relation to any claim of unlawful conspiracy by the Government and Bank of The Bahamas to seize Mr Miller’s Summerwinds Shopping Plaza, nor has there been any application to Justice Grant Thompson for judgment of any sort against the bank," it added.

"The Plaintiffs brought an application against the Attorney General and the treasurer of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas for judgment based on admissions allegedly made by those parties with respect to certain leases which the plaintiffs contend were entered into between the plaintiffs and the Government of The Bahamas.

"No application for judgment has been pursued against Bank of The Bahamas. Further, Justice Grant-Thompson has indicated that her ruling on the application for judgment against the Attorney General and the Treasurer is now scheduled to be delivered on January 17, 2020."

Tribune Business has seen written suggestions that the Government owes as much as a $66m liability to Mr Miller, but Mr Gomez said "it could be higher than that". The ex-Cabinet minister's lawsuit, filed last July, had been seeking a Supreme Court declaration that the five leases entered into on December 1, 2016, by the former Christie administration are "valid and binding" upon the Government.

Those leases were among the contracts identified by K Peter Turnquest, deputy prime minister, during the 2018 mid-year Budget debate as "handcuffing" the Government's financial plans. It was one of two cases he cited where the Government owed between $13-$14 million for property leases and had "no exit clauses", even though "not one single government worker has ever set foot in the building".

However, Mr Miller is alleging that both the Government and Bank of The Bahamas both reneged on agreements to fund multi-million dollar renovations at Summerwinds Plaza so it could be rented to government ministries.

Besides claiming damages for the loss of multi-million dollar rental income through these purported contractual breaches, Mr Miller also accused the Minnis administration of deliberately refusing to follow through on the leases signed by its predecessor knowing it "would trigger a default" on the $25-$28m worth of loans owed to Bank of The Bahamas, thereby paving the way for the bank and the Bahamas Resolve bail-out vehicle to seize control of the Tonique Williams Highway plaza.

In a previous interview, Mr Miller described the leases - entered into by the former Christie administration in December 2016 - as "a win-win" for all parties given that the rental rate was 45-55 per cent lower than that typically enjoyed by the Government.

The outspoken ex-MP told Tribune Business that the main potential tenant was the Immigration Department, which had been lined up to lease some 98,000 square feet at the former Robin Hood store. Other government departments supposed to join it are the Registrar General's Department, Public Parks and Beaches Authority and Parliamentary Registration (voting) Department.

Comments

jackbnimble 8 months, 2 weeks ago

While he hails himself as the savior of the poor and destitute (since he’s always recanting some story about a poor person he just talked to) in my opinion Miller is just a bonafide crook whose PLP cronyism got him millions from BOB for a project in his deceased son’s name that he’s too proud to admit has failed. To add insult to injury the cronyism continued with a subsequent lease of the building by the PLP Government to further facilitate the crookedry and give even more tax payer dollars thereby shoveling more good money after bad. My greatest fear is that if the PLP gets back in, this debt will be written off and Miller will get the lease. I think he filed the law suit as a stalling attic to ensure that happens. I’m praying it doesn’t. So many who have done less are paying more. Miller should not be the exception!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 8 months, 2 weeks ago

I believe the real problem could well be Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson. Isn't she the same judge who foolishly ruled against the government's proposed demolition of the Haitian shanty towns long before the many deaths caused by Hurricane Dorian in Central and North Abaco? If so, she's likely a judge who has great difficulty seeing all of the dots that should be connected to create the bigger and more truthful picture.

Meanwhile disgraced Paul McWeeney, the former managing director of BOB who greatly facilitated its corrupt lending practices to politically-connected persons (both PLP and FNM alike), and who, upon his dismissal from BOB, was eventually given a cushy executive position at Sir Snake's insurance company, wrongfully gets to strut around with impunity notwithstanding the very serious nature of the dastardly deeds he was instrumental in facilitating while at the helm of BOB. Truth be told, McWeeney and certain other former directors of BOB like McWeeney, as well as Miller and certain other delinquent borrowers from BOB like Miller, should all be doing hard time in a prison cell for having literally bilked the taxpayers of our country out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

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bogart 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Investigations needed into banking practices, duty of care, negligence, policy etc.and hold the Chairman and Board of Directors accountable and politically appointed members. This bank should not be seen as, is not a syndicate of any political party, its the people bank along with a number of shareholders as owners also.

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themessenger 8 months, 2 weeks ago

No question about it. If you, me or any other citizen not closely associated with either PLP or FMM were to commit such fraudulent acts we would be doing plenty of time.

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geostorm 8 months, 2 weeks ago

@well_mudda, this is one time, I have to say, I agree with you! These jokers should really be doing hard time! No where else in the first world would they be allowed to walk around unscathed!!

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bogart 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Full investigations needed into EVERY ACCOUNT.!!!!!! What the Bank and its Mamagement and POLITICALLY APPOINTED BOARD OF DIRECTORS needs to have continued actions thoroughly examined. All this is the tip of the iceberg and not only those who have been greased have politicians paying off $100 million taxpayers money reported in black and white in press for collateral valued some $22.5 Million dollars!!!!

Given obvious mentality, all other accounts also needs investigation those customers who got screwed, victimized by negligence - every account !!!!! not only those who got greased by either political syndicates having political appointees carry out mandate of running the bank !!!!!! All investigated and published !!!!!

Right now it is dead bad nation has to beg and plead for foreign money and all this at Bank and other at run govt entities by either political syndicates leave nation in subserviant position.

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jus2cents 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Lock him up, and the other dinosaur politicians that have been helping themselves to the country's national kitty. He is of no use to the future Bahamas, so people like him and of his ilk need to shut up, leave and never come back.

Lock Him Up!.

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alfalfa 8 months, 2 weeks ago

And the corrupt Bank Board and Management team that were complicit in these credit arrangements. The main culprits smiled all the way to the way to the bank with a hefty severance package and praised of a job well done.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 8 months, 2 weeks ago

They too should have been locked-up after a jury trial verdict of their guilt based on sufficient and appropriate evidence that could and should have easily been gathered from a proper investigation by law enforcement authorities before the shredders started working overtime in the run up to Paul McWeeney's departure from BOB with a million dollar bonus approved by Vomit Christie. E-discovery techniques available at the time should have been used to obtain the relevant e-mails, e-messages, etc. of the directors concerned (like McWeeney) who were instrumentally involved in BOB's corrupt lending practices that resulted in the raping, pillaging and plundering of Bahamian taxpayers to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.

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TalRussell 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Can I summon courage comrades loyal wear colours Imperialist party's t-shirts to muster some level outrage to my question?
Why is it that number individuals who re-markedly were politically appointed colony's most financially rewarding of cushy jobs paying yearly salaries of $500,000 plus, plus benefits, bonuses has done doubled under colony's First Viscount a.k.a prime minister's first 984 days governing administration?

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truetruebahamian 8 months, 2 weeks ago

A bank's holding of propery as a security is just that - if you do not adhere to the loan terms, the property reverts to the bank to sell or administer to recoup the amount loaned plus interest. For a public corporation to go against lending terms or bail out (WITH OUR MONEY) to a private entity is unfathomable. Perhaps we should all (the minority who actually do pay our taxes) go broke then the bottomless pit of financial goodness bail us out - and with what? If we stop contributing then there are NO FUNDS! Get real and if you take out a loan go by the terms. As Tom Lehrer said, 'Don't make bets that you cannot cover' or words to that effect.

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