0

CCA: WE SHOULD TAKE ADVANTAGE OF BAHAMAS – Contractor reached out for help to son of top govt advisor

Baha Mar

Baha Mar

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

Baha Mar's main contractor asked the son of Perry Christie's top policy adviser to intervene when his father proposed changing The Pointe's Heads of Agreement over how many Bahamian construction workers would be employed.

E-mails tabled in the New York State Supreme Court on Friday reveal that Daniel Liu, China Construction America (CCA) Bahamas senior vice-president, made an urgent request for help within days of Sir Baltron Bethel altering the agreement's wording to make clear that The Pointe's 70:30 labour ratio in favour of Bahamians applied to construction workers only.

The documents, filed as part of Sarkis Izmirlian's $2.25bn fraud and breach of contract claim against the Chinese state-owned contractor over Baha Mar's failure, disclose that the person he reached out to for help was Sir Baltron's son, Leslie.

He advised that the issue was "politically problematic for the Prime Minister", given the Government's stance about ensuring Bahamians must come first in all areas of life - especially on job and economic opportunities. He suggested that, rather than focus on labour ratios, CCA instead stipulate "a dollar amount" that would be awarded to Bahamian contractors and assert it would hire more locals than had been engaged at Baha Mar.

Mr Bethel later described his father as "one of CCA's biggest supporters", adding that there were "others" in the Cabinet "who might not see things the same as OPM (Office of the Prime Minister)" where Sir Baltron worked as Mr Christie's senior policy adviser and, ultimately, as the Government's lead in resolving the Baha Mar dispute that ultimately led to Mr Izmirlian's ouster as developer/owner.

Tribune Business previously revealed that how CCA paid $2.4m to Mr Bethel's company, Notarc Management Group, and threw business its way at the Baha Mar dispute's peak. Sir Baltron, though, denied to this newspaper that CCA’s payments influenced his stance towards the controversy and its participants, or his advice to the Government and its actions, after Mr Izmirlian filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in summer 2015.

The latest disclosures, though, shed fresh light on the links between Sir Baltron, his son and CCA. They will also raise questions as to whether Mr Bethel should have intervened by providing advice to the Chinese state-owned contractor in a matter involving his father given how close his family ties were to a then-key government official.

The e-mail chain covers a week-long period between May 13-21, 2015, a period which coincides with Baha Mar hurtling towards insolvency and its Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing at end-June 2021. They prove that Sir Baltron, and the Christie administration, were pursuing parallel or twin tracks simultaneously - trying to act as impartial arbitrators, or mediators, in the Baha Mar dispute while at the same time negotiating with CCA over The Pointe.

Other revelations also indicate that CCA sought to exploit the Christie administration's desire to have Baha Mar fully open, and operational, before May 2017 knowing that its general election changes would likely hinge on several thousand Bahamians being employed by the Cable Beach mega resort.

Mr Liu, in a July 6, 2017, e-mail to fellow CCA executives Tiger Wu and Dawei Wang, as well as the contractor's ultimate boss, Ning Yuan, wrote: "We should take advantage of the Bahamas government. If the Government, Export-Import Bank of China and CCA join forces, we can turn passive into active." This is being interpreted by Mr Izmirlian and his legal team as evidence of CCA's desire to oust Baha Mar's original developer at any price.

The issue of how many Bahamian contractors and construction workers were employed at The Pointe, a $200m development now featuring the Margaritaville resort, condo hotel, parking lot, retail, office and other amenities, was a long-running controversy amid work that largely took place under the Minnis administration.

There were frequent complaints that Bahamians were largely being excluded from work they could perform by a Chinese-dominated workforce that Beijing insists accompanies its capital investments wherever they are located. Numerous calls were made for the Department of Labour to investigate whether CCA was breaching the project Heads of Agreement, and denying contractors and their employees much-needed income.

However, the documents obtained by Mr Izmirlian during the legal discover process for his own claim, reveal that CCA was so insistent on a majority Chinese workforce that it threatened to "downsize" The Pointe project unless it got its way.

This was triggered by Sir Baltron's May 13, 2015, e-mail to Mr Liu and CCA's Bahamian attorney, Lourey Smith at McKinney, Bancroft & Hughes. "I refer to your May 7 e-mail and your suggested language relating to the 70:30 ratio of Bahamian to non-Bahamian labour," Sir Baltron told Mr Liu. "This ratio applies only to persons employed in construction."

He then proposed altering the draft Heads of Agreement text to reflect this, amending a version that stipulated the same 70:30 ratio in favour of Bahamian workers was also to apply to operations staff and management. Sir Baltron's version confirmed that Bahamian sub-contractors "will perform at least 40 percent of the construction work", and be included as part of the 70:30 split.

Yet Mr Christie's senior policy adviser crossed out language that included operations and management staff in this ratio. This provoked fury from Mr Liu and CCA, with the former writing: "It's impossible for us to employ 70 percent Bahamian construction workers on the project because that only leaves 30 percent left as Chinese construction workers.

"If we have 400 Chinese workers that means we'd have to employ over 900 Bahamians. Then employ a further 500 permanent staff to run the hotel. For a start we won't need 1,300 people to build this project and, second, why are the permanent staff being excluded or described differently from construction workers........ Jobs are jobs, right?"

CCA argued that "the super structure and shell and base build, large MEP (mechanical, engineering and plumbing" were construction skills "most Bahamians do not possess", indicating that the fit-out of The Pointe's retail stores was more appropriate for locals.

Mr Liu justified the contractor's stance by pointing to American and Mexican workers engaged on Baha Mar's multi-storey car park and Atlantis' MEP works, respectively, and added: "I think there is a misunderstanding at Cabinet level as to what's possible on our project re: labour and also what's available in the local work pool."

The person he provided all this information to on May 16, 2015, was Sir Baltron's son, Leslie. Mr Liu reiterated: "Our problem is we cannot hit the 70/30 [ratio]. We can sub-contract 40 percent work to locals, which is double Baha Mar's commitment. My headquarters will not approve it; the 70/30 ratio.

"I drafted a revision which I think should work to include operation, training, management in the ratio. But Sir Baltron crossed out. So we are caught in [between a] rock and hard place. Because we cannot agree the Heads of Agreement, it [has] already impacted starting schedule. No Heads of Agreement, we cannot get work permits and material cleared from Customs.

"We [have] postponed our ground opening (originally by 6/1) till Heads of Agreement agreed, and considering downsizing the development. I am afraid it will hit to [the] press soon. I believe this is not what the Prime Minister want. Can you help?"

Mr Bethel replied three days later, saying he would "like to assist" but that himself and Notarc wanted to charge CCA for help with the contractor's "advice and interaction with The Bahamas". And he suggested: "We need to talk.... this is politically problematic for the Prime Minister. My suggestion is we reference a dollar amount to be awarded to local contractors and state also that, unlike Baha Mar, the Hilton project will employ mostly Bahamian labour."

Sir Baltron's son then e-mailed two days later, on May 21, 2015, to reassure Mr Liu and CCA that his father was one of the contractor's biggest supporters within the Christie administration. "I think Sir B (Sir Baltron) is one of CCA's biggest supporters.... There are others at Cabinet who might not see things the same as OPM (Office of the Prime Minister). Proceed as you deem best with the Prime Minister.... happy to assist you further if necessary."

Mr Liu replied the very same day. "I am sure about Sir Baltron and yourself as our best friend. But we are between rock and hard place. It needs to be resolved quickly, it is hurting CCA and government now."

Mr Izmirlian and his legal team, though, had no doubts about what this e-mail exchange and other evidence meant. "CCA interfered further with the project, to Baha Mar Properties' detriment, through its improper efforts to influence Bahamian government officials, including Sir Baltron Bethel, through Notarc Management Group, whose chief executive is Sir Baltron’s son, Leslie Bethel.

"CCA’s interference culminated in its conspiracy with China Export-Import Bank to oust Baha Mar Properties from the project. Sir Baltron suggested 'Izmirlian out' and obtaining a new owner, but it should 'come from bank and not government'; CCA co-ordinating separate meetings with Sir Baltron; [and] suggesting 'join[ing] forces' with the government and China Export-Import Bank to push out Baha Mar Properties."

The latter reference is to a July 6, 2015, e-mail written by Mr Liu to his fellow executives shortly after Baha Mar and Mr Izmirlian had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Noting the Government's threat to reclaim Crown Land and other assets granted to the project, as well as refusing to recognise the Chapter 11 process, he wrote: "The key is the attitude of the Export-Import Bank of China. The Government is in a hurry now.

"A good development is that local public opinion agrees that Sarkis has problems. Filing Chapter 11 in the US is an evasion of debt. The two tactics, reclaiming the land and not recognising the Chapter 11, were fatal blows to Baha Mar. We should take advantage of the Bahamas government. If the Government, Export-Import Bank of China and CCA join forces, we can turn passive into active."

CCA, though, vehemently denied that there was anything improper about its relationship with Mr Bethel and Notarc. "Baha Mar Properties asserts on the first page of its motion that 'CCA paid illegal kickbacks to the family of Bahamian officials to protect CCA’s position'. Again, this assertion is not accompanied by a citation to any evidence because there is no such evidence," it said, hitting back at Mr Izmirlian and his corporate vehicle.

"Throughout discovery, Baha Mar Properties has implied some sort of impropriety in CCA Bahamas payments to a consulting company called Notarc Management Group, a Panamanian-based entity that was co-founded by Leslie Bethel, the son of a Bahamian official. Defendants engaged Notarc to help establish a CCA Panama office and to otherwise explore construction projects throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

"The invoices from Notarc show legitimate payments, many of which were made in 2016 and were reimbursable expenses that Notarc incurred on behalf of CCA Bahamas in connection with work in Panama. Ironically, while Baha Mar Properties attempts to create some impropriety in CCA Bahamas' relationship with Notarc, Baha Mar itself retained Notarc in or around 2012 (two years before CCA Bahamas did) to perform 'market research' and other work specifically in connection with the project, using project funds to pay Notarc. Leslie Bethel also worked from 2006-2008 as a “business development consultant” for Baha Mar Development Corporation, Baha Mar's predecessor entity that was controlled by Mr Izmirlian."

Comments

rosiepi 1 year, 5 months ago

No surprises here, just Bahamian government at work. It does certainty come out at an awkward time tho!

2

Porcupine 1 year, 5 months ago

What wonderful, transparent people we have working in the best interest of Bahamians. Just wait for FTX revelations to come out. Hopefully it will not take as long to find out the truth. Were the pirates ever really expelled?

0

Baha10 1 year, 5 months ago

https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2022/12/18/bu...">https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2022/12/18/bu...

Despite ongoing World attention, apparently FTX and SBF’s departure no longer News locally!?!

0

ExposedU2C 1 year, 5 months ago

Leslie Bethel and his father Baltron "Bag Man" Bethel were the beneficiaries of significant illegal payments made by CCA for the material role they played in helping the China Export-Import Bank and others wrest control of the Baha Mar Project from Izmirlian thereby causing him great financial harm.

And let's not forget the generous retail floor space leases for jewellery shops at Baha Mar received by Allyson Maynard-Gibson in partnership with members of the owners of John Bull and the overly-generous pool construction and other contracts CCA and the China Export-Import Bank awarded Perry Christie's son.

Government officials who take bribes and/or otherwise abuse their public office for financial self-gain and the gain of their family members should be subject to not only severe civil penalties, but also harsh criminal penalties.

1

ExposedU2C 1 year, 5 months ago

The following lengthy posting to this website by @Reality_Check back on July 20, 2015 is proving to have been spot on:

OPEN QUOTE

"None other than our State Minister for Legal Affairs, Damian Gomez aka the Minion, states to the Tribune: "We're moving forward to secure a liquidator,....once that's done it's in his {Sarkis Izmirlian} interest to strike a deal as soon as possible otherwise creditors will take over and the restructuring will not be to his liking."

This is tantamount to a public admission that by filing an application for the liquidation of Baha Mar, the Christie-led PLP government is seeking to force Baha Mar and the Izmirlian family to accept whatever unfair terms are put to them by both the Chinese general contractor (CCA) and the Chinese Export Import Bank. In a liquidation supervised by the Supreme Court of The Bahamas, the shots are called by the largest admitted creditors which would be the two aforementioned Chinese stakeholders.

In other words, notwithstanding the appointment of one or more "neutral" liquidators acceptable to the largest creditors, the Chinese stakeholders would be, for all intents and purposes, firmly in the driving seat of the entire liquidation process. This seems to be precisely what the Christie-led PLP government wants to happen notwithstanding that Baha Mar (and the Izmirlian family through Baha Mar) have already found it necessary to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware as a result of the severity of its grievances with the Chinese stakeholders, which grievances are the subject of very weighty legal claims that have already been asserted and are now before the High Court in the U.K.

By all appearances, our Christie-led PLP government is wrongfully in bed with the Chinese stakeholders to unjustly wrest control and possession of the Baha Mar project away from the rightful principal developer of the project (Sarkis Izmirlian). It would be a travesty of monumental proportion for the Bahamas and the Bahamian people if the Delaware court (judge) permitted the Christie-led PLP government to effectively nationalize the Baha Mar property for the benefit of the Chinese stakeholders by abuse of due process.

The Christie-led PLP government is notorious for its willingness to wrongfully "lean" on matters before our Supreme Court in an effort to affect a desired outcome.

CLOSE QUOTE

0

themessenger 1 year, 5 months ago

Repost: I asked my son what his plans were when he had completed his education, he said he was considering a career in organized crime. I said he should reconsider as the Government doesn't like competition.

0

ThisIsOurs 1 year, 5 months ago

Tribune Business previously revealed that how CCA paid $2.4m to Mr Bethel's company, Notarc Management Group, and threw business its way at the Baha Mar dispute's peak

We [have] postponed our ground opening (originally by 6/1) till Heads of Agreement agreed, and considering downsizing the development. I am afraid it will hit to [the] press soon. I believe this is not what the Prime Minister want. Can you help?"..Bethel replied three days later, saying he would "like to assist" but that himself and Notarc wanted to charge CCA for help with the contractor's "advice and interaction with The Bahamas"

July 6, 2015, e-mail written by Mr Liu to his fellow executives shortly after Baha Mar and Mr Izmirlian had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.... We should take advantage of the Bahamas government. If the Government, Export-Import Bank of China and CCA join forces, we can turn passive into active."

Leslie Bethel also worked from 2006-2008 as a “business development consultant” for Baha Mar Development Corporation, Baha Mar's predecessor entity that was controlled by Mr Izmirlian

Nothing like experience to let you know how things work in the Bananas

1

birdiestrachan 1 year, 5 months ago

Did Mr Izmirliana default on his payments if he did it was what cost his problems it was he who choose the China bank these attempts to blame mr, Bethel are just fluff

0

truetruebahamian 1 year, 5 months ago

Birdie, a sea cucumber has more brains that you, and are able to express themselves in a better fashion.

1

ThisIsOurs 1 year, 5 months ago

can you give more info on a sea cucumbers brains? On a scale of... oh -0 to 10?

0

truetruebahamian 1 year, 5 months ago

We knew this from the start. The persons that performed these treasonable acts get away with blatant injustices, smoothed over by the government’s smooth hand. Izmerelian lost to an enemy country with the collusion of those in charge at the time, which absolutely enriched those who were in the position to influence those who could make the rotten criminality be taken ahead.

0

birdiestrachan 1 year, 5 months ago

Some how they had to work Mr Christie,s name into this story, what did Mr Bethel do that was wrong?

0

ThisIsOurs 1 year, 5 months ago

lol.

Did you fail reading comprehension? Literally the entire story was about the actual communications from a CCA senior executive detailing his attempts to "work with" the "govt", (in Bahamian parlance that means the PM Mr Christie), by approaching and paying Leslie Bethel as an intermediary, Bethel who just happened to be the son of Sir Baltron Bethel, senior advisor to Perry Christie. Christie is in the story because that's the story, there's no "somehow". Weirdly enough it appears Izmirilian also approached Bethel for the same reason. How all these people is know who has access to the sitting PM? Carnival had someone working for them too. Nygard had Shane.

0

ThisIsOurs 1 year, 5 months ago

**As to "what was wrong" (...yes, reading comprehension is an issue). Alledged collusion between the govt, CCA and Export Import Bank to the disadvantage of Izmirilian IS the foundation of the lawsuit. Its appears that Bethel was the conduit i.e. the go between

1

truetruebahamian 1 year, 5 months ago

China’s claims are illegal and unacceptable. We will take over any properties that they feel legal, but if the situations were reversed, they would be disregarded.

0

birdiestrachan 1 year, 5 months ago

The man did not live up to the contract he signed he can not blame the Government for that it is as simple as that for all the brilliant , smarty pants , be careful what you sign

0

ExposedU2C 1 year, 5 months ago

ZZZZZZzzzzzzzz..........and that's a very dismissive snooze without reading whatever hogwash you wrote. LOL

0

birdiestrachan 1 year, 5 months ago

I know exactly why Mr, Christie,s name is in the story and it has nothing to do with comprehension , apparently you do not know , it is something like see how much mud can be thrown

1

ExposedU2C 1 year, 5 months ago

ZZZZZZzzzzzzzz..........and once again, that's a dismissive snooze without reading whatever hogwash you wrote. LOL

0

Commenting has been disabled for this item.