By Caribbean News Now contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia -- At the same time that the government of Saint Lucia is celebrating the commencement of a multi-million dollar low-cost housing project in the north of the island, allegations of fraud have been made against minister for physical development, housing and urban renewal Stanley Felix.
In 2011, Bau Panel Systems Limited, a company incorporated in Gibraltar, entered into a joint venture agreement with the National Housing Corporation (NHC) of Saint Lucia for the construction of low-cost homes involving the development of approximately 400 acres of land, including 58 acres at River Doree, Choiseul. Charles Broomfield, a quantity surveyor, was engaged by Bau Panel Systems as an exclusive consultant in relation to the joint venture.
According to legal pleadings filed in the High Court in London, Bau Panel Systems now claims it has been the victim of a conspiracy between Broomfield and Felix to destroy its joint venture with the NHC. The purpose of the conspiracy, it is alleged, was to divert the development opportunity vested in the joint venture company, NHC Bau (St Lucia) Limited (NHC Bau), to a new joint venture partner in which Broomfield has an interest, and in the process to take the benefit of the substantial investment by Bau Panel Systems in the development under its joint venture.
Having previously told Bau Panel Systems that Broomfield was not to be trusted and that he should be removed from the board of NHC Bau, Felix nevertheless secretly met with Broomfield on 26 October 2012 to discuss a rival joint venture agreement with the NHC, the claim filed with the court alleges.
In particular, it is claimed that a laptop computer recovered from Broomfield by Bau Panel Systems in May 2013 records a meeting between Broomfield and Felix on 26 October 2012 prior to but on the same day as a representative of Bau Panel Systems met with Felix after having flown him (Felix) to London at the company’s expense.
However, at the meeting between Bau Panel Systems and Felix on 26 October 2012, Felix claimed that he had not seen or heard from Broomfield since August 2012.
The laptop computer also contained the text of letters drafted for and apparently sent by Felix inviting and/or supporting competing parties to make proposals for the same business opportunities that were being, and were intended to be, exploited by the joint venture company, NHC Bau.
It is alleged, therefore, that Broomfield and Felix conspired to undermine Bau Panel Systems’ relationship with the NHC and to divert the River Doree development to another entity.
The possession of laptop itself also seems to have been a matter of dispute between the parties and was at one point impounded by the Saint Lucia police.
Felix has been accused to contacting the St Lucia police in an unsuccessful effort to pressurize the police to return the laptop to Broomfield.
In response to a request for comment on the matter, Therold Prudent, leader of the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM), said, “We are monitoring the story, and will comment at an appropriate time (if warranted).”
Similar requests for comment addressed to the prime minister’s press secretary and the United Workers Party leadership in relation to the allegations against Felix went unanswered.
A question concerning Felix’s apparent US citizenship, as evidenced by his voter registration in New York on October 30, 2000, and any renunciation of such citizenship prior to his appointment as a senator also went unanswered.
Meanwhile, the Core Unit Construction Shelter Programme in Monchy will provide settlement for 20 families being relocated from the Conway Community in Castries, while an additional 22 houses will be sold to interested low and middle income residents.
Felix said the programme is in delivery of government's promise to make housing more affordable to Saint Lucians.
The construction of the 42 low-cost housing units and associated infrastructure is funded at a cost of over EC$37 million from the Caribbean Development Bank.
Member of Parliament for Gros Islet Emma Hippolyte welcomed the project, which will stimulate jobs and economic activity.
The member of parliament also encouraged prospective home owners to explore every potential for development that may arise from the housing project.
The project to construct the 42 houses is expected to be completed in March 2014.