Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 12th 2017 Contents JANUARY 12 • 2017 guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
VIEW | BG3
BG VIEW ANTHONY WILSON
Chief editor business
Editing and design
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Does the PNM get
the Clico/Sandals link?
Last week Wednesday, at a news
conference following the two-
day retreat of Cabinet and
senior public servants, I asked
Prime Minister Keith Rowley
the following question:
"Can I ask you if there is any update with
regard Sandals in Tobago and on the Clico
(resolution), which is actually linked to the
proposed Sandals project?"
The prime minister's response---as record-
ed by T&T Guardian senior political reporter
Richard Lord---was as follows:
"No, Sandals is not linked to the Clico
project (resolution). Let me clarify that: the
site that has been earmarked for the Sandals
project in Tobago is currently part of the An-
gostura package and from that point of view
you can mention Clico.
"The Government, in talks and in expec-
tation, is owed significant sums of money by
Clico and in lieu of the payment of monies
owed to the Government, the Government has
made overtures, which I have been told are
positive, and the expectation is that we would
have that property transferred to the State.
"In the meantime, the Government has
formed a company to receive that property
and that company will be the company that
will be interfacing with Sandals with regard
to the ownership of that site."
Later in the news conference, Dr Rowley was
asked if it was not correct to say the Tobago
land to which he referred is owned by Clico.
His response: "I just said to you that the
land is Angostura land and isn't Angostura
partly owned by Clico? Let me not get into
saying things that I do not have facts on. The
bottomline is whoever owns the land, the op-
portunity exists for the Government to take
the land for cash (debt) and that arrangement
is on the table."
Now, the important part of Dr Rowley's
statements, in response to my questions, is
his assertion that the proposed Sandals project
is NOT linked to the Clico resolution.
As far as I am aware, the prime minister's as-
sertion that the proposed Sandals investment
in Tobago is NOT linked to the Clico resolution
MAY BE based on inaccurate information.
That's because on July 13, 2016, the Central
Bank spokesperson, Nicole Crooks, sent me
the following response, which was incorpo-
rated into a Business Guardian lead story of
July 14, 2016.
Ms Crooks stated:
"Clico, through two wholly-owned sub-
sidiaries called Oceanic Properties Ltd and
Occidental Investments Ltd, owns 429.8 acres
of land described as part of the Golden Grove
Estate in Tobago."
I stated that Dr Rowley's assertion that the
Golden Grove estate is owned by Angostura
MAY be inaccurate to leave open the possibility
that the information provide by Ms Crooks in
July was itself inaccurate. Or the possibility
that the ownership of the 429.8-acre Golden
Grove estate in Tobago may have been trans-
ferred from Clico back to Angostura between
August 13, 2016 and January 5, 2017.
Both of these assumptions---that Ms Crooks
provided inaccurate information to a journal-
ist and that the Golden Grove property was
transferred back to Angostura---are easily
I make this assertion given my knowledge
that Ms Crooks is a consummate professional
and also because of the difficulty of transfer-
ring any property out of Clico's statutory fund,
wherein one assumes the Golden Grove estate
is held. Neither do I believe that Dr Rowley
deliberately attempted to mislead the country
as to the ownership of the Golden Grove estate.
I do think, however, that whoever briefed
the prime minister on the ownership of the
Golden Grove Estate did so based on infor-
mation that is years out of date.
Or that Dr Rowley, and/or his advisers,
did not read the July 14, 2016 edition of this
publication, which was headlined on Page 1
"Duprey linked to Sandals deal" and on Page
3 where the headline was "Clico bought No
Man's Land from Angostura."
That article quoted former CL Financial and
Angostura executive Michael Carballo as stat-
ing---under oath at the Colman Commission of
Inquiry on September 21, 2011---that Angostura
purchased 100 per cent of the shares in Golden
Grove Estate Ltd for US$15 million in 2002.
Carballo testified that the Golden Grove Es-
tate was vested in two companies, Occidental
Investments Ltd and Oceanic Properties Ltd
and those companies were eventually sold "at
cost" to Clico, "in and around 2007."
Occidental Investments and Oceanic Prop-
erties were listed in Clico's 2015 financial
statements as being worth $174 million, the
same amount they were valued at in the in-
surer's 2009 financials.
Assuming, therefore, that the Golden Grove
Estate is now owned Clico, it seems to me that
there is a definite link between the resolution
of the Clico issue and the construction of the
Sandals hotels in Tobago.
In other words, for the Dr Rowley to get his
wish that there should be a Sandals in Toba-
go, it is certain that the hiving off and sale of
the Golden Grove Estate to the State would
need to form part of the final resolution of
the Clico issue.
I don't see how the final resolution of the
Clico issue can be achieved unless all of Cli-
co's creditors have been repaid---including,
of course, GORTT as its largest creditor---and
what is left of Clico is returned to its 51 per
cent shareholder, CL Financial.
Certainly, one way of reducing Clico's debt
to the State would be to place a fair market
value on the Golden Grove Estate and for it
to be transferred to the state company that
Prime Minister Rowley mentioned at the news
conference last week Wednesday.
Also, if Clico owns the Golden Grove Estate,
it seems pellucidly clear to me the Govern-
ment would need to negotiate the transfer of
the estate for value with CL Financial, which
owns 51 per cent of Clico.
And, as most readers know,
Lawrence Duprey remains
one of the largest share-
holders of CL Financial,
which probably means that
Mr Duprey would need to
approve any deal the CL Financial sharehold-
ers' group does with the State.
Quite tellingly, in referring to Sandals To-
bago last week, Dr Rowley said: "when the
hotel is built."
When it was pointed out to him that he said
"when the hotel is built" and not "IF the hotel
is built," Prime Minister Rowley said: " Well,
I am confident, all things being equal, that
this project will proceed.
"We are at the stage where we are exchang-
ing confidentialities now and very soon ne-
gotiations will take place and consultations
will take place in Tobago. That's a process.
"Soon after the elections in Tobago are over,
the consultations will begin and I hope we
can come to an agreement. I expect we will
because that project is important for Tobago."
The prime minister clearly views the com-
pletion of Sandals Tobago as being the legacy
project of his term of office in the way that
Kamla Persad-Bissessar views the Couva Chil-
dren's Hospital and Patrick Manning viewed
the Waterfront Complex.
If that is the case, Dr Rowley would be en-
couraged to take greater personal interest in
the resolution of the Clico matter as it should
now be clear to him that his Sandals legacy
project is linked to Clico.
Casually dressed, former executive chairman of Clico, Lawrence Duprey stands up outside the
Hyatt Regency hotel on Wrighston Road in Port-of-Spain last Thursday.
PHOTO: NICOLE DRAYTON
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