The Seven Stars hotel and condominium development in Grace Bay, Providenciales
By Caribbean News Now contributor
PROVIDENCIALES, TCI -- In the fourth day of his opening statement on behalf of the prosecution on Thursday in the criminal trial of former Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) premier Michael Misick and others, Andrew Mitchell QC detailed a total of $575,000 in alleged bribes to Misick by the developer of the Seven Stars resort, with another $175,000 paid to co-defendants, former deputy premier Floyd Hall and his wife Lisa.
The Seven Stars complex is a hotel and condominium development on a 20-acre site in Grace Bay, Providenciales.
On Wednesday, Mitchell asserted that there was a corrupt relationship between the resort developer Varet Jak Civre with Misick and Hall in particular, as well as the use of the Progressive National Party (PNP) bank account as a front for payments described as political donations, which were always intended for the personal use of politicians.
According to the Crown, Floyd Hall used a TCI-registered company he owned, Paradigm Corporate Management Limited, to channel corrupt payments from, among others, Civre.
Prior to the PNP coming to power in August 2003, Mitchell asserted that Civre was seeking to develop a dependency with Misick and Hall so that, should they come to power, they would be in a position to act in his interests and the issues Civre wished to develop would come to fruition.
On February 12, 2003, one of Civre’s companies from Precon made a $50,000 payment to a PNP account. The following day, $8,000 was transferred to Misick by means of a cheque signed by Hall and $5,000 went to Hall via cheque, Mitchell explained.
On March 27, 2003, another $50,000 was paid by Civre’s company to Paradigm, of which $20,000 was apparently paid to the PNP; however, it does not appear to have been deposited into either PNP account.
“It is a mystery as to where that money went,” Mitchell said.
Two cheques were made out to Hall in the sums of $4,000 and $5,500 respectively, and $10,000 was paid to Floyd and Lisa Hall’s joint bank account, which had been opened the previous week.
Other payments by cheque were made to Galmo Williams, a minister in the subsequent PNP government, in the sum of $2,000; $2,000 to codefendant Lillian Boyce; and $1,500 to codefendant Jeffrey Hall.
According to Mitchell, the next significant payment was on July 14, 2003, when $99,990 was credited to Paradigm’s account by order of “Varet Jak” [Civre].
“This may be of some relevance: the money arrives on 14 July, but cheques dated 11 July were prepared, but not debited or presented, until 16 July. The money comes in, and two days later it goes out in one payment of $50,000 and two of $25,000,” Mitchell said.
$50,000 was paid to an account in the name of the PNP; $25,000 to an account in the joint names of Floyd and Lisa Hall; and $25,000 to an account in the name of Misick.
“To summarise: $100,000 was paid in, the cheques had already been prepared, and then monies were paid out to the PNP, [Floyd Hall] and [Michael Misick],” Mitchell revealed.
He then turned to a 20-acre casino and resort situated in Grace Bay, Providenciales, known as “The Allegro”, which was put on the market in 2001 by Westbrook Partners, a US-based institutional investment fund.
Negotiations between Civre and Westbrook for the sale of the Allegro took place during 2003 and, on November 25, 2003, after the PNP had come to power, Scott Fitzgerald of Westbrook received a telephone call from Michael Misick.
“During the call, it was made clear to Fitzgerald by [Michael Misick] that Westbrook should sell the Allegro Resort to Civre. There was a suggestion that if Westbrook refused they may not receive a renewal of their casino licence in respect of the Allegro. Fitzgerald was told to arrange a conference call the following day to discuss the sale,” Mitchell said.
Between December 5 and 11, 2003, the sale of the Allegro to Civre was agreed at $24 million and, in January 2004, Civre commenced negotiations with the TCI government in relation to the development of the site, including an amendment to the policy in respect of the height of buildings from five storeys to seven storeys.
At a meeting of the then Executive Council (ExCo) on January 21, 2004, Civre’s company was granted permission to build up to a height of 110 feet, with a density of 60 bedrooms per acre.
The following day, January 22, 2004, an attempt was made to make a payment of $250,000 from Civre’s Swiss UBS bank account to Saunders & Co’s Scotia Bank account, with the reference “Commission on land sale”. However, this payment was returned on January 27 and then made again on February 3 to an HSBC Miami account in the name of “Michael Eugene Missick” with an address in Miami.
“The Crown’s case is that this amounted to a bribe, and represented part of the ongoing corrupt relationship between Civre and [Michael Misick],” Mitchell said.
The development agreement for the Seven Stars complex was signed on April 19, 2004, between the TCI government and Civre’s company. Building height was restricted to 85 feet, in order to permit residential condominium development of seven storeys. Bedroom density was restricted to 45 bedrooms per acre.
On May 18, 2004, Michael Misick, in his capacity as minister for planning, issued a policy directive concerning building heights in the Grace Bay area and, at a Physical Planning Board meeting on September 9, 2004, the Board adopted Misick’s policy guidelines allowing for the height of condominiums and hotel buildings in the Grace Bay area to be increased to seven storeys.
On October 21, 2004, a further meeting of the Physical Planning Board took place, when outline approval was given to Civre’s company in respect of Phase One of the Seven Stars development.
On 29 October 2004, a payment of $150,000 was sent to Michael Misick’s personal account at Belize Bank in the TCI from Civre’s UBS account.
“The Crown’s respectful submission is that the payment gives rise to an irresistible inference that it was a corrupt payment,” Mitchell said. “The Crown will argue that that is a reward for bringing home the planning arrangements. There is no legitimate reason … why that person should be paying $150,000 to the chief minister just a couple of days after he gets what he has been seeking.”
On December 8, 2004, ExCo granted an extension of the Seven Stars Phase One completion deadline to July 30, 2005, and on January 26, 2005, Civre was granted a concession to import 20 promotional vehicles at the discounted 5% rate provided for in the development agreement.
On February 3, 2005, about eight days later, a payment of $175,000 was made from Civre’s UBS Swiss account to Michael Misick’s US HSBC account.
“We raise for consideration: why would the chief minister of the TCI have an offshore bank account into which payments are being made by a developer who is seeking concessions?” Mitchell asked.
On March 11, 2005, Civre made another payment of $175,000 from his UBS Swiss account into Floyd and Lisa Hall’s joint offshore account.
“We ask again, why would Civre be making payments to an offshore account? If it was a payment without issues, why wasn’t it credited to their account in the TCI?” Mitchell said.
“These payments are not disclosed, they are in breach of the ministerial code, and are being paid offshore. The court will be invited during the course of the trial to conclude there is no legitimate reason why a developer would send such significant sums to these politicians,” he added.
The full text of the fourth day’s opening statement on behalf of the Crown may be found here: http://tci-sit.org/andrew-mitchell-qc-opening-statement-21st-january-2016/