|Day III: Salt Cay – A Tangled Web|
|Sunday, 18 January 2009 07:27|
“Oh what a tangled web we weave”, said Sir Walter Scott, “When first we practice to deceive”! This seemed to be Mr. Milne’s – Counsel to the Inquiry - perspective on day three of the Commission of Inquiry. The issue: Salt Cay Development. The players: The Premier, Hon. Dr. Michael E. Misick, MP; Mr. Mario Hoffman and Mr. Chal Misick, brother of The Premier.
Mr. Milne wanted to get to the bottom of the relationship between the parties named above, J&T bank, government’s approval of a development at Salt Cay and the specific collateral for a $6 million loan to the Premier.
Here is the rundown: Mr. Mario Hoffman (see link in previous article) of InstroKapital in Slovakia seeks to do a resort development in Salt Cay, Turks and Caicos. Mr. Milne revealed that Mr. Hoffman has a partner in this proposed development: that partner is Mr. Chal Misick, The Premier’s brother, who, as it turns out, owns 50% of the proposed development. It was the very same Mario Hoffman who introduced The Premier to J&T bank, who also, Mr. Milne exposed, paid part of The Premier’s $1million dollar AMEX credit card bills, even though he has no bank account there. J&T loaned The Premier $6million dollars. What was the security for that loan? Well, to complete the ‘tangled web’, it turns out that it was Mr. Chal Misick’s 50% equity in the Salt Cay development.
Here is the trajectory of Mr. Milne’s questioning: He was trying to show that The Premier was self-dealing and enriching himself whilst in office. The truth or false of that claim lies in showing connections which are nefarious or have the potential to be. Mr. Milne asked The Premier, rather leadingly, whether he knew whom Mr. Hoffman’s partners where in the proposed Salt Cay development. “No.” answered The Premier.
Here is the exchange:
MILNE: The director of Salt Cay Golf Club, the directors list two people, one, a gentleman called Stefan Kral. The other one a company, Windsor East Limited. Shareholders, there are two shareholders, each with 50 shares. One is Harbour Management Development Limited. That gives an address in Nicosia in Cyprus. That is in fact the holding company used by Mario Hoffman?
Here Mr. Milne aimed at forcing upon The Premier a perspective that his dealings with Hoffman were a conflict of interest at best, and misfeasance in public office at worst. That is, Hoffman was used, Mr. Milne implied, because Misick knew him to be wealthy and using his political powers, he could gain a financial advantage from Hoffman.
The Premier fought the impression that Milne was right in his perspective or in the impression he left with the audience. He sought to redirect attention to the protocols of dealing with resort developments in small nations. Here is what he said:
THE PERMIER: When you are dealing with -- when you are a small, developing country and you are dealing with trying to attract investment to your country where capital moves quickly, you try to deal as quickly as possible. But this was not a new proposal. This was an ongoing proposal, (1). (2), it was in relation to lease land. (3), this was in principle and as you note from my answer that it instructs -- the Attorney General and TC Invest negotiated a development agreement in relation to the golf course that was not signed until six months later, so the matter came back to the Cabinet for formal and detailed consideration. This was an in-principle decision. That is not unusual. There are many in-principle decisions that is made.
Milne was not moved by these explanations. His concern was how can a sitting Premier negotiate on behalf of his government, with a man who is lending him money, collateralized by the very property that must come before the government for approval. He is how he concluded:
MILNE: Did you ever say to your brother: look, this will look really bad if you get involved in this business because this is a direct deal between my government and this very wealthy individual? Mr. Hoffman clearly had he facilities, he clearly had the money available to set up a golf course, develop a golf course, develop an entire island. He didn't need to go to Chal Misick for a few extra shillings, did he? So Mr. Chal Misick was not likely to be a financial contributor?
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