TURKS AND CAICOS STILL LOOKING TOWARDS INDEPENDENCE, SAYS PREMIER RUFUS EWING
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The Turks and Caicos Islands is still considering political independence from Britain, Premier Dr. Rufus Ewing has said.
Ewing told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that “independence remains a major issue” three years after Britain suspended the island’s constitution and set up a one-man commission to probe the government of then premier Michael Misick.
“I think any right thinking country should have independence as its destination. The time period however is the question. The need for independence must be the goal and so everything you do should be to prepare your people and country for that giant step. There will be a number of factors that will come into play as to whether or not that time should be fast tracked or continue along the pace that you would desire to have or would like to have and that would depend on the ongoing relationship with the United Kingdom government and the people in the territory,” he said.
Ewing said that the government “of the day” would also have a role to play and “allowed to do what is right by the people, for the people to improve their standard of living and to prepare us for our plans for moving towards that step of independence.
“If it doesn’t happen, all it does is to make the people even more convinced that independence is our only way out,” said Ewing, who is here attending the 14th annual Caribbean Tourism Organisation organised Sustainable Tourism Conference (STC-14).
He told CMC that over the past three years, more citizens have become convinced “that independence is the way to go, more than ever before in the past because of the relationship we have had (with Britain) over the past three years.
Ewing, who studied in Barbados and Jamaica and is well known throughout the Eastern Caribbean, said while he would not commit personally to a timeframe” for independence, “what I know we will do is to appoint an independence commission from the House of Assembly to look at timeframes to look at milestones that need to be achieved and to look at referendum settings…”.
Ewing, whose government holds a slender one seat majority in Parliament, said there is stability in the country.
“The stability is just about there. We have elected a government that we have confidence in from a stand point of investors,” he said, aware that with a one seat majority in the House “if anything happens then we can keep on going back to by elections and by elections and so it may not give the people the level of security they would want”.
While he would not comment on the re-arrest of former premier Misick in Brazil and the extradition proceedings that had been started against him by Britain, Ewing told CMC he was still “awaiting” a response to suggestions that Britain was trying to re-colonise its territories in the Caribbean including the Cayman Islands.
“Well, I am sure everybody has a reason for doing things and I still awaiting the answer to the question,” he said, adding “I were a conspiracy theorist that would be my theory” as to whether London was using finances to the territories to “keep them in check
They are a lot of discussions regarding recovery of Joe Grant first through SIPT in Turks and Caicos Islands 6 months ago and now the statement of Governor Todd,that through recovery of Joe Grant they will cover the UK Loan about 200,0 MIO USD???
Nobody would like to wait the court decisions.
Is it possible to cover the SIPT costs and fundings through recovery of Joe Grant?Is it true or is it only a story to get the people of TCI calm about the costs and fundings of SIPT?
Or is it an international Scandal?
This Cay is one of the less known cays, and its story came up to the attention of the TCIlanders because of bribe allegations in Turks and Caicos. Dr Kinay, What is Joe Grant Cay?
Joe Grant’s Cay is a beautiful but remote, uninhabited 712 acres cay located in a remote section of the archipelago between Middle Caicos and Easy Caicos. It is accessible only by sea. The last time I took a boat to visit it, it took me 2 hours from Providenciales to get there. This Cay has no dock, no road, no electricity, no water neither any form of other infrastructure. It is inhabited like East Caicos. The cay is composed mainly of consolidated rock with the ocean frontages consisting of either sand or “iron shore”. The elevation is low and the shallow water depths at some parts of the island for do not allow visitors to access other areas. These difficulties do not discourage us, as at the end, when properly developed, this Cay is a beauty.
We have bought 200 Acres of this island on June 20, 2008 from the Crown through a transfer of title executed by the former Governor., Hon Richard Tauwaree and 5 months later on November 7, 2008, the former Governor, Hon. Whetherell has executed a Development Agreement with us for the development of the whole island.
What was the role of you in this project?
When I first came to Turks and Caicos Islands in 2005, I had already my development company O Property Collection in Austria. This company is where I, and my partner Oguz Serim offer our development advice to projects. O Property Collection has, from the first days of this project, ,is acting as “developer” bringing its expertise, in construction, sales, marketing. The center of any development is people. Community is very important. My company’s vision is to create design driven projects. God has already placed a beautiful design for Dellis Cay and Joe Grant Cay, it is now up to us, with respect, to treat these beauties with the best architecture and standards there is.
What do you want to develop on this island Joe Grant?
We wanted to develop the island with an environmentally friendly small Hotel and then Homes in the natural surroundings. We have retained top environmental engineers from Florida, and we started immediately the process of Environment Impact Assessment. We designed our project with a high-class architect from italy, and have signed a brand and management Indent with a very famous brand. The most important consideration though is that this will be a low density and green development.
When you first heard of Joe Grant Cay? How did you get involved?
I first got interested in Joe Grant Cay In December 2006 when I was informed that negotiations with some developers for a proposed project on Joe Grant’s Cay had run into difficulties and I was asked whether I could be interested to take this development further. The Government already had a price for sale on the Cay, US$5 million according to a formal offer that the former Government had placed before the previous developers in November 2006. My initial views for the Cay was that it was a remote location, no infrastructure and it involved Crown Land, and that meant the need of a Belonger Partner. I was not familiar with this process as my first investment Dellis Cay, is a private transaction and does not involve any Crown Land.
Did you know any of the previous developers?
I understand from the discussions in the past years that there were a number of developers who wanted to take this Cay prior to my involvement in early 2007. I do not know and have never done any business with the gentleman named at the discussions at the Commission of Inquiry,. whether in relation to Joe Grant’s Cay or otherwise.
Who is you local/belonger partner by Joe Grant?
I was already heavily engaged in our Dellis Cay project, and having regard to the Crown land policy (of which I was then aware), I thought it sensible to have a belonger partner in the development. In that respect, a company called Oceanic Development Ltd owned by Don Gardiner became my partner. I respected Don very much whom I already knew socially. As you may recall he was the President of the Turks and Caicos Islands Tourism Board. I understood that Don was involved in the development prospects of Joe Grant Cay with the previous developers so he was very familiar with it. We have executed a Joint Venture Agreement with Don’s company in January 2007, and became partners in a company called Caicos Platinum Ltd, a company that was the recipient of the first formal offer of US$5 million from the Government back in November 2006.
When did you buy Joe Grant Cay?
See, that has never happened. We did not buy Joe Grant Cay. We bought the freehold of the 200 acres of Joe Grant Cay, and the rest (512 acres) is provided to us by a Conditional Purchase Lease through a development Agreement. I am not sure whether you followed it, but this island was first offered at US$5 million to Caicos Platinum Ltd, when that company was owned by previous developers. Then, 200 Acres of it (approximately 30%) was offered to us at $2 million in early June 2008, by the decision of Cabinet, led by His Excellency the Governor Richard Tauwaree. At the specific instance of the Government (and with some reluctance on our part given the risk to which we were thus being exposed in advance of the conclusion of a development agreement), we were asked to close the purchase of the 200 acres hotel parcel on an urgent basis, apparently because of very low cash flow issues at Government level. Having agreed to do so, the Governor again changed its mind, obtained a new valuation by a third-party QS and informed us on June 19th, 2008 that the price of the hotel parcel had been increased to $3.2 million. We paid that price for 200 Acres and bought a portion of Joe Grant Cay on June 20th, 2008 on de day of Groundbreaking ceremonies of Dellis Cay.Governor Hon. Tauwaree came in the afternoon to this ceremonies,was very happy,that Joe Grant deal was finally closed after 1,5 years of negotiations.He congratulated me on the day,the funds of the transaction was in the account of government.
What about the Development Agreement?
You know, it took us almost 2 years from the first discussions, but 5 months after our acquisition of the 200 Acre parcel, in November 2008 to get a Development Agreement. I am not sure whether you re know but The Governor executes all major agreements on behalf of the Government. So, Governor HE Gordon Wetherell, and our CEO, Director, Michel Neutelings have met for the execution of the Development Agreement.
Dr, Is there anything special in the Agreement?
All development agreements in Turks and Caicos Islands, usually have more or less the same provisions. However, we have an additional obligation on our part to pay 15% on the gross amount on the sale of villa lots in the development to the Crown. I am not privy to all development agreements in TCI but I am not personally aware of any other development agreement which contains an obligation of that nature. From the standpoint of the public, it is clear that if my partners and I make a major investment on Joe Grant’s Cay such that the price which a buyer might pay for a villa lot is greatly enhanced, the Government receives a corresponding benefit without any of the business risks undertaken by the developer. Joe Grant Cay was going to be a new source of income for the TCI Government and TCI islanders. This remote and inhabited island was going to be the home for a new hospitality project providing new jobs and opportunities for everyone. I would imagine that most of the ex Middle Caicos residents would returned to their home from their present endeavors in Providenciales. In summary, this project had a very important social aspect. I have on many occasions discussed these aspects with both Honorable Governors Tauwahare and Whetherel.
There were discussions about the valuation? What you have to say on it?
Look, I am a developer, a businessmen. I got interested in this deal as the 712 Acres was available at US$5 million to a number of developers who apparently did not perform. I wanted to buy at this price. At the end, I have negotiated more than 18 months to get 30% of this cay at US$3.2 million. I took a significant risk by paying that price and closing that purchase without having a signed development agreement with TCIG, with no guarantee that we could carry out our development plan or acquire the rest of the Cay. I trusted to Governor Hon.Tauwahare and later on to Governor Hon.Whetherel.
Now coming to the valuations, I understand from the Inquiry that under the leadership of the HE Governor Tauwaree himself, the Cabinet has sought a number of conflicting valuations both from their own valuation department and from a private commercial appraiser on June 2008. They have as the Cabinet, together with HE the Governor, have decided to take the valuation of the commercial appraiser as it reflected the market value.
Now, the question is why did they not picked the high value but the low value?
My answer is that the valuation of the land is obviously a matter for the Crown and for experts in that field. That is why I have hired some of the leading experts in this field to assist me. What they say is simple: the Valuation officer has attempted to value this property by direct comparison to couple at Ambergris Cay, and sale listings from marketing brochures (and not actual transactions) at North Caicos Marina and Middle Caicos. I am told that those comparable do not come near being appropriate for the purposes of valuing Joe Grant Cay.
At Ambergris Cay, for example, lot sizes of between 0.32 – 1.85 acres each are compared to our project of 700 acres. In addition, Ambergris Cay forms part of an established luxury brand, and considerable expenditure has been undertaken on the extensive infrastructure. I do not know if you know but Ambergis Cay has all its utilities underground, electricity and water, It is the only island in this country which has an underground sewer system. Everything is self-generated on the island, water making, the treatment of the sewer system. It has even an uncompleted marina that is not completed but obviously a port facility) including the inclusion of the biggest private runway (6,000 feet) in the Caribbean. Overall Ambergis Cay it is a self-sufficient island that has all of the amenities and can function, unlike North and Middle Caicos which has to have power on the sea cable from Providenciales. North Caicos Yacht Club is also a developed property, so no parallels to undeveloped land neither. We also understand that the value r has used “sales brochure prices” in 2008. The Middle Caicos comparative is based on a sales listing as well, which was withdrawn from the market after 22 months listing period and not sold.
Now, that is what experts say. These will all come out soon. Now if you ask me what I personally think. To me, the real valuation is what I paid. Our company paid US$18 million to Dellis Cay, a 500 acres island, of which 200 Acre is private land. Dellis Cay is only 20 minutes from Leeward Highway, it had PPC Electricity cable in it, for plenty of electricity, and it is next to world-renowned Parrot Cay. I think that we have paid for the 200 Acres at Joe Grant Cay reflects the fair market price at its present state and that is “undeveloped” land at a remote location for commercial use. That is what it is.
Later on, we have asked both local and international professional valuation firms to conduct a fgull analysis and report an official valuation of this island. All these reports have confirmed the value that we have paid to Joe Grant Cay’s 200 acres and the lease agreements that we have entered with the TCI Government. In any case, after the World Economical Crisis starting in November 2008 and onwards land values have significantly eroded all around the world and especially the Caribbean.
But Dr Kinay what is the benefit of this Project to the TCIslanders? What do they get?
Look,the government did not simply sell a piece of land, they entered into a development agreement for the development of that land. If I can not develop it on time, and spend the money that the Government wants me to spend on it, than they will get back. It is in the Agreement. It is ours as long as we spend money on it. You know how much? My Development Agreement says I need to spend US$120 million on this cay in a fixed period of time. We estimated that the construction will take 2 years and create at least 150 new local jobs. Once the island is fully operational it will require at least 70 locals to manage it. As I have already mentioned, in addition to the purchase price of the land of the hotel site, we will pay 15% of our Villa sales on the 300 Acre Villa Lots and this goes straight to the Government’s budget. Not to mention, the usual development agreement obligations such as the Annual Scholarship payments, duties, work permit fees, the rents paid under the leases, stamp duty benefits accruing to TCIG arising out of sales in the development and the boost to the tourism economy of TCI.
Dr Kinay, you lost a court case concerning Joe Grant Cay June 2011? What will happen now?
I received the Turks and Caicos Islands Court’s judgment in June 2011 concerning Joe Grant Cay. I also received TCIG’s Press Release from July 2011. The judgement is grossly unfair and Joe Grant Cay development companies are currently appealing it. I could not afford lawyers as Turks and Caicos Islands Courts have frozen all my worldwide assets not allowing me to spend any funds towards my right to defend myself and my companies. Looking at the Judgment, in essence, His Hon. Justice G W Martin has concluded in connection with the political donation of $500,000 made by Dellis Cay’s parent company Turks Development LP (the Court states the donation was from ‘Dr Kinay’) to Michael Misick on 9 January 2007, the Judge found (paragraph 33) “there to be a very strong probability that the money was paid as a bribe in order to ensure that the Defendant companies obtained the benefit of the proposed development” disregarding the facts that the Defendant companies did not even exist at that time, and that the donation was made by Turks Development LP, a company developing Dellis Cay, not related in any way to Joe Grant Cay . His Hon Judge further observed (paragraph 41): “I emphasise that this judgment should not be treated as a conclusive finding that any individual has acted corruptly. Nobody should be declared corrupt if he has not had the opportunity to defend himself at trial, and that has not happened in this case.’ These statements did not make the Judgment just and fair, the basic principle of law.
On the matter of Joe Grant Cay’s valuation, His Hon Justice completely ignored the Government’s valuation report obtained from BCQS, an independent commercial appraiser who valued 200 acres of Joe Grant Cay, at USD 3.2 million for commercial use, exactly the amount of money asked by the Government in June 2008, which the development companies have paid in full. His Hon Judge ruled (Para 36, The Judgement) ‘When instructing BCQS to give an alternative valuation, McAllister Hanchell did not tell them of the proposed development, so that their valuation made no allowance for the intended use of the land.’. The Learned Chief Justice has failed to recognize that BCQS valuation report specifically stated on Page 7 Item 3.5 ‘It is assumed that planning permission is available for the subdivision of the land for residential plots or for a commercial use.’ By ignoring BCQS’s clear statement specifying that Joe Grant Cay valuation report is prepared for “commercial use”, The Hon. Chief Justice presented an unbalanced approach for the benefit of the Plaintiff. The Court’s omission of BCQS’s written representations in their valuation report is not something that I can live with and we will be pursuing the reasons for this material error.
First, the Commission of Inquiry’s publication of unredacted Final Report despite the TCI Supreme Court’s Order not to publish the unredacted Final Report cost Dellis Cay its business and caused the funders to pull their finances, now Joe Grant Cay Development companies are striped of their rightfully obtained assets.
It is clear to me that there is a set political agenda which is geared to restructure the political landscape at the Turks and Caicos Islands and we are chosen as the main victims.
I repeat categorically that I reject all accusations, and state that we are innocent
For those who doubt that the Development of Joe Grant Cay is not innocent, I have only one question:
Had the alleged privileges, favors or better conditions been present in the acquisition of 200 acres of this island, or in the Development Agreement, why both Hon. Governor Tauwhare, and the present Hon. Governor Whetherell would have executed these on behalf of the Crown?
Both Hon Governors are experienced public officials, with history of making land transactions, and executing Development Agreements on behalf of the Crown. Why did they approve these transactions if the preferential treatment was all over the documents that they have signed?
All these contracts, and 200 acres land sale were approved by the Attorney General, TCI Invest, Ministers, the Premier, and executed by 2 Hon. Governors. The Government and both Hon. Governors had 2 years to conduct due diligence. Do you really believe that they were all ‘deceived’? and did not know what they were selling? That is the real question the Turks and Caicos Public must ask.
I have faith in the law, and I will look for justice until I find it.
What are your long-term goals in Turks and Caicos Islands?
Now a new Governor is appointed as you know.His Excellency Hon.Todd is a very positive person and has a new approach for TCI.I will explain him following:
I did not come to Turks and Caicos Islands, to do few projects and go back to anywhere. I will stay and work here for many years. When Dellis Cay and Joe Grant Cay will one time open, my children, together with the young generation of Turks and Caicos Islands, will be proud of having these developments, in remote locations and will have fun.TCI er will be proud about it too.
It is also not right,to tell TCI Islander,the government recovered Joe Grant.It is not true.We have still our appeal open and when we will again lose because of the pressure of Attorney General,SIPT,TCI Government etc,we will go to the international courts for this injustice.