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Ag: Entrepreneur 'Extremely Selfish'

Attorney General Carl Bethel. (File photo)

Attorney General Carl Bethel. (File photo)

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The attorney general last night accused a local entrepreneur of “extreme selfishness” by rejecting a Paradise Island compromise that was “in the best interests of The Bahamas”.

Carl Bethel QC told Tribune Business that it was an “absolutely untrue assertion” by Toby Smith, principal of Paradise Island Lighthouse & Beach Club Company, that the government was forcing him to accept “inferior” land for his $2m project to make way for Royal Caribbean’s “get-away” destination at Colonial Beach.

He argued that the government had already shifted a three-acre crown land parcel it proposes to lease to Mr Smith further to the east, in response to his representations - a move that would give the Bahamian entrepreneur “half” of the best beach at Paradise Island’s western tip.

Mr Bethel said the adjustment to Mr Smith’s potential land-holdings “strikes a fair balance” between providing entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians and improving Nassau’s attractiveness as a cruise port of call and destination.

He suggested that allowing Royal Caribbean to have its own private Paradise Island destination for the hundreds of thousands of cruise passengers it brings to Nassau every year was needed to improve the visitor experience, and effectively represents a trade-off for the increased port and tourist fees that will finance Prince George Wharf’s $250m upgrade by Global Ports Holding.

The Attorney General suggested that Mr Smith could be viewed as “unreasonable” for rejecting the Government’s offer, and hinted that if he did not accept there were “thousands of Bahamians that would relish the opportunity” of being able to market their product to the thousands of Royal Caribbean passengers on the adjoining property.

“It’s an absolutely untrue assertion,” Mr Bethel said of Mr Smith’s argument that he is being forced to move to enable Royal Caribbean to lease 10 acres of prime beachfront Crown Land on western Paradise Island, leaving him with a rocky portion unsuited to his own ‘beach break’ destination.

“Yes, in order to accommodate the Royal Caribbean development he was asked to move further to the west. The initial position, though, was not the on-the-ground position in terms of determining land usage. He [Mr Smith] was further to the west than he is today. We have been able to bring him further to the east.

“He’s now right in an area that he himself calls a ‘sweet spot’. He’s further to the east than he would have been. He’s right in an area referred to as having the largest expanse of beach. He has half of that going west. We have made an adjustment that does not in any way prejudice him.

“He has an equal share in half of the best beach and higher land to put his development on next to Royal Caribbean and their thousands of tourists. If he [Mr Smith] portrays that as inferior land that’s not the case. He has half of the best beach land on Paradise Island. If that is not acceptable to him, so be it, but we’ve done more than enough to ensure his project is not prejudiced by Royal Caribbean’s development.”

Mr Smith, though, told Tribune Business that Mr Bethel had effectively been trying to sell him “a second hand car” when they met on Thursday night, together with Joshua Sears, the Prime Minister’s senior policy adviser, and Candia Ferguson, director of The Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA), to alter the Crown Land holdings he would receive to accommodate Royal Caribbean.

Arguing that it was the Government, rather than himself, who were being “unreasonable”, Mr Smith questioned why he should be forced to move to allow a foreign corporate giant to lease 10 of 17 acres of Crown Land at Paradise Island’s western tip that currently belongs to the Bahamian people.

Voicing fears that he may become a victim of the Government’s desire for Royal Caribbean to close the Grand Lucayan deal, and that Colonial Beach may have been used as a bargaining tool in those negotiations, Mr Smith yesterday listed multiple reasons why the revised three-acre beachfront parcel now proposed for him will not work (see other article on Page 1B).

Meanwhile, Philip Davis, the Opposition’s leader, also issued a statement yesterday questioning whether the lease of Paradise Island Crown Land to Royal Caribbean for a Nassau excursion destination was part of the Grand Lucayan deal due to be signed today.

“The Prime Minister and his ministers must therefore answer the question before tomorrow’s signing,” Mr Davis said. “Is the Crown Land left at Paradise Island a consideration for what is being done in Grand Bahama? We want to be assured that there are no side letters or side deals, and that what is being done in Grand Bahama is a straight and open public deal.”

Mr Bethel, meanwhile, said “there is a balance to be struck” between the needs of Bahamian entrepreneurs and making Nassau more attractive as a cruise destination. “We have to make the Port of Nassau competitive, both with private islands in The Bahamas and the emerging competition we’re going to get from Freeport,” he added.

“The strategy is that Global Ports Holding will add to the attractiveness of the Port of Nassau itself, and the immediate area around it in downtown Nassau. A consequence of that, the price, is going to be higher fees to maintain that. Certain berthing fees will increase.

“We have to increase the attractiveness of the Port of Nassau and get the cruise lines to continue to commit to coming here. One of the ways is that Royal Caribbean gets a beach front experience on Paradise Island. They’ve bought most of the private homes, not all of them but most, up to the Yoga Retreat,” Mr Bethel continued.

“Mr Smith has been moved further to the east, and the sweet spot - the best beach, and calmer waters - he has been given an equal portion of that area with Royal Caribbean. He’s right next to them, and will have the ability to work with them and other cruise lines to accommodate their passengers.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity, and strikes a fair balance between providing opportunities for Bahamians and improving the attractiveness of the destination.” Given that the purpose of Royal Caribbean’s planned destination is to ensure it maximises earning opportunities from its passengers, many observers are likely to query whether Bahamian businesses will be able to market to them.

However, Mr Bethel pressed on: “It could be said that Mr Smith is being unreasonable by rejecting this offer, as he gets prime beachfront land and the ability to market to Royal Caribbean customers right next door.

“I am sure there are thousands of other Bahamians that would relish opportunity, and to have half of that beach spot and access not only Royal Caribbean customers but all the other cruise lines coming in. I am sure there are thousands of Bahamians who would relish that opening.

“Seeking to portray what we are trying to achieve as other than in the best interests of The Bahamas is an act of extreme selfishness and irrationality in my view.”

Comments

themessenger 2 years, 2 months ago

Lighthouse Beach Nassau version! Unfortunately, the same result for the natives, no seat at the banquet laid on by the government and eaten by Royal Caribbean for locals, just a seat at the window looking in and the offer of the few crumbs remaining.

No Brotherly Love there Mr. Smith, just more might is right, they got the gold mine you got the shaft.

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rawbonrbahamian 2 years, 2 months ago

I agree with the attorney general. Why give away that kind of valuable land for only a $2,000,000 investment to one bahamian when the Bahamas can make far more money and create more jobs from the cruiseline

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Alex_Charles 2 years, 2 months ago

because that one Bahamian is offering almost 50% stake to be owned by Bahamians and is inviting Bahamian business participation VS ROyal Caribbean which offers NOTHING but a few menial jobs.

Why give away so much to a foreign entity and gain so little? How many times must we repeat the same garbage over and over again?

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Millennial242 2 years, 2 months ago

You mean maybe 200 jobs at minimum wage; significant tax concessions to the foreign entity (that lasts for a decade or more), and most of the profits generated being diverted out of the country to said, foreign owner? At least if it were a Bahamian owned entity, you would have more comfort in knowing the profits were being redistributed into the local market. In the long run, that does not materially help the economy. In the short run...sure, maybe.

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proudloudandfnm 2 years, 2 months ago

RCCL should not be allowed to own a beach club in our country. Why would you allow a huge company like that to come in and compete with locals?!?!?

Tell RCCL to jump in the lake and give the land to Toby!

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The_Oracle 2 years, 2 months ago

Admission of the sell out. No remorse, plain and blunt.

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BahamaPundit 2 years, 2 months ago

Bahamians are now called "selfish" for wanting a seat at the table. What will we be called next, a basket of deplorables? This terminology sums up the entire Minnis administration's treatment of the Bahamian public from day one, and it alone should be enough to have them driven out of office like stray cats out of an alley.

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birdiestrachan 2 years, 2 months ago

The Masterful liars of the FNM Government. I believe Mr: Smith.

has Bethel done anything right so far?

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jus2cents 2 years, 2 months ago

nope, he has done nothing useful, Bethel is a major disappointment and has cost the nation dearly.

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sweptaway 2 years, 2 months ago

buy one get one free !Our lucaya

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birdiestrachan 2 years, 2 months ago

Mr: Smith has to move. so what is Bethel talking about.

They should note what their FNM papa did. the give away of BTC. The Hutchison deal where Hutchison had control of Ports that were not in the bonded area. see how that turned out for the country.

Bethel and his FNM Government could not care less about the Bahamian people.

They will sell their very souls for a cold bowl of porridge.

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TalRussell 2 years, 2 months ago

Soon comrade AG Carl Wilshire, a serial but unsuccessful contestant heself at securing a constituency's House seat - will get learn the true meaning colony's prime ministers saying, when he's driving even further West - before it hits his brain that he best do a U-turn and head in his intended direction - East bound? Not making this up.Just, can't where the AG has ever before signaled out any foreign investor for their selfishness - except of course the long before Chow Tai Fook replaced the original developer of Cable Beach's Baha Mar resort?

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 years, 2 months ago

What Carl Bethel has done here is beyond the pale and shows beyond a shadow of doubt that he is unfit to be AG. Bethel's outrageous professional misconduct in publicly attacking Mr. Smith has seriously jeopardized Mr. Smith's ability to assert his legal rights and seek redress through our court system for any harm and losses wrongfully caused to him and his planned business venture by the government, more specifically the Office of the PM.

Bethel should be immediately called on to resign from his AG post by every Bahamian QC and the entire membership of the Bahamas Bar Association.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 2 years, 2 months ago

Repost from 4 days ago:

Royal Caribbean has had the tiny balls of Minnis in a tight vice for quite some time now. They deliberately held off closing on the Grand Lucayan 'giveaway' deal in order to leverage additional overly generous concessions, including the Crown Land at the western end of Paradise Island. And the more Minnis squirms, the more Royal Caribbean tightens the vice. None of these 'back-room' deals Minnis is cutting with Disney, Carnival and Royal Caribbean will do anything for the Bahamian economy and the vast majority of Bahamians. Bahamians are being deprived of precious pristine waterfront land assets which these cruise ship companies will pollute with impunity for decades to come as they pocket and repatriate their profits annually with little or no contribution to our economy. Only Minnis and his most favoured cronies are laughing all the way to the bank as a result of their back-room deals with these most unscrupulous foreign investors. Yep, the very arrogant, nasty, corrupt and greedy Minnis is working overtime with the foreign cruise ship companies (Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Disney) to defraud Bahamians of their natural heritage.

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Porcupine 2 years, 2 months ago

Mudda, your observations here are absolutely correct. This administration doesn't give a damn about anyone but themselves.

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Dawes 2 years, 2 months ago

It would also be in the best interest of Bahamains if the AG stopped losing so many court cases. I'd imagine the only way for this to happen would be for this AG to step down as there has been loss after loss on his watch. So we all know that won't happen as there will need to be some negotiation for when Carnival, Norwegian and all the other cruise lines want their own personal beaches in Nassau.

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bogart 2 years, 2 months ago

HEADLINE.....'Ag: Entrepreneur "Extremely Selfish"'

Shocking to read this statememt made by the Impartial Attorney General of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

Seems the small man got the herculean effort to try and create someting jus bin sitting dere and govt jumps in trying to take bread outta small man mout......If truth bin told, trust me , aint gan lie but govt bin doing this to the small man since King Hatchet was a hammer.....talikd people land from Driggs Hill area....taxing small man regressive tax hurting most....complaining on VAT and next govt even adding more on small man...charges here $30 added there...kicking small people into more hardship an poverty,....eliminating middle class,....creating biggest gap between rich and poor....now Bahamas the 4-6th most expensive nation to live in the world.....so what next..????.....but latest pamplet on Govt Accomplishments include ...Repairing 112 Standpipes (standpipes is the decades ols small water pipe in small concrete base side of road where for decades poor people without plumbing can bring containers and fill up containers with tote water to use in their home most areas ova da hill where politicians grew up in decades), 45 computers, ....and a lot more...

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truetruebahamian 2 years, 2 months ago

Don't be an ass! RCCL should NOT have any concession here. They already have more than they deserve. This is a desperate and foolish move and other than those being paid off it is a situation that is already being regretted. Carl Bethel should be ashamed of himself.

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themessenger 2 years, 2 months ago

Let us also not forget all of Toby's work giving back to the community at large by restoring a number of Stephen Burrows's beautiful sculptures which still grace a number of prominent intersections around the island namely the flamingo, rooster, conch shell & white crown Pigeon.

What have RCCL done for us recently aside from providing some free beers and cheap tee shirts at that disgraceful town hall meeting in Eleuthera when grabbing up the other Lighthouse Beach property? Prime beachfront for RCCL, swamp and honeycomb rock for Bahamians, well kiss my grits!!

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ThisIsOurs 2 years, 2 months ago

I'm getting a weird feeling that the goal of government is to make sure a given number of crabs stay in the bucket crawling through crap and forever dependent on tbe bread crumbs thrown in. This is almost unbelievable. A Bahamian, the Bahamian they always saying "well you have so much to say about the foreigner, why dont you invest in your country then?", is investing in the country, and they tell him he selfish...

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