By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
Progressive Liberal Party Leader Philip "Brave" Davis has called for Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest to resign over allegations of a $27m fraud.
Mr Turnquest hit back on Thursday at allegations levied by two companies controlled by Fred Kaiser, a Canadian businessman with whom he previously enjoyed a long and close relationship, by saying he was “appalled” his name had been dragged into a dispute with another “former business partner”.
That business partner is Captain Randy Butler, chief executive of Sky Bahamas, which was forced to cease flying last year after the Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority refused to renew the air operator certificate that was required to carry fee-paying passengers. Mr Turnquest, though, noted that he is not named as a defendant in Mr Kaiser’s statement of claim - only Captain Butler.
Since the allegations were publicly aired, there has been no comment from the Office of the Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Free National Movement, Carl Culmer.
Progressive Liberal Party Leader Philip "Brave" Davis' request for the matter to be addressed by the Office of the Prime Minister, is the second such public request from the Opposition. The PLP first asked for matter to be addressed on Thursday just before the Senate adjourned, but were told by Leader of government business in the Senate Attorney General Carl Bethel, that he was only aware of what was written in the media.
“It is now day two since the Progressive Liberal Party laid in Parliament a writ of summons alleging a 20 million dollar fraud by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance,” Mr Davis said. “The Prime Minister has not said a word. The Deputy Prime Minister's statement was arrogantly dismissive and missed the point of good governance entirely.”
The PLP said Dr Minnis must be reminded that he has a duty to act when his ministers refuse to take the honourable course.
“There are two appointees of the Prime Minister, the statement continued. “Each has different versions of the truth. Michael Scott, QC, has placed in the public domain by court action, allegations of fraud and dishonesty against the Minister of Finance.
“Mr Scott is the chairman of the Hotel Corporation and in charge of the sale of the Grand Lucayan Hotel in Freeport, Grand Bahama. The second appointee is Peter Turnquest, the Minister of Finance. Mr Turnquest has said that what Mr Scott alleges in the writ is false. In other words, the Finance Minister said that lies have been told on him.”
In the statement, Mr Davis asked how is this resolved in the face of two of the prime minister's appointees alleging one has told lies on the other?
Mr Davis said one of them must be telling the truth.
“Both have clear conflicts between their public duties and their private affairs,” Mr Davis further said. "In our view, before the end of the day they must both act to do the honourable thing which our system demands. If they fail to resign, the Prime Minister must invite their departures forthwith.”
Mr Turnquest is not named as a defendant in the civil law suit, but is accused of conspiring with his former business partner, Captain Randy Butler, to defraud the plaintiff, Alpha Aviation Limited and Advanced Aviation Limited, by unlawful means to enrich themselves.
DPM Turnquest released a statement, late Thursday, denying what he called, “false claims” and saying that he is confident facts will defend his integrity.
Mr Turnquest’s statement read:
“I deny these false claims. I am appalled that my standing as a public servant made calling my name in this dispute between my former business partners worthwhile. There is no room for that kind of misuse of our judicial system in our society. I am confident that the facts will defend my integrity once presented.
“My record of transparency and accountability in my private and public life is a matter of record and reputation. My focus remains on further deepening our democracy by enacting legislation to reform and modernise the management of our economy and public finances as we work through this very challenging period in our country.”
The Tribune contacted the Office of the Prime Minister for commentary on the matter, but was told: "The Office of the Prime does not comment on matters before the court”.