BASSETERRE, St Kitts, Wednesday May 15, 2019 – The Greek billionaire who is heir to the Coca
Cola fortune yesterday left St Kitts and Nevis where he is facing drug charges,
but not before warning Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris that he and his
government would be slapped with a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit over the
Alkiviades ‘Alki’ David flew out of the twin-island federation after paying the EC$300,000 (US$111,010) bail imposed on him when he appeared in court yesterday, charged with possession, intent to supply, and importation of $1.3 million worth of cannabis.
The charges were laid after an investigation into the discovery of cannabis on his private jet when he arrived at the Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw International Airport last Tuesday, along with American businessman Chase Ergen with whom he is in a cannabis business venture. Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers and his family had also been travelling with David and Ergen.
The 51-year-old billionaire was
arrested by members of the Anti-Narcotics Unit at the airport when he tried to leave
last Thursday, and he was subsequently charged. He was initially granted EC$30,000
(US$11,101) bail and ordered to surrender all travel documents and report to
the police station daily.
When David appeared in court yesterday,
the bail amount was increased to the EC$300,000 (US$111,010) but his travel
documents were returned to him and he was free to leave the country. He must
return for another court appearance on September 23.
Before his court appearance yesterday, David had gone on a profanity-laced social media tirade. In one of the videos he posted, he shook a clenched fist and, in a comment directed at the Prime Minister, said: “Mr Harris, PM, you’re going to get a fisting, baby. Literally a legal fisting like no other. Stand by.”
He is insisting that the plants he had on his plane were hemp and were related to his plans for a new legal cannabis business in St Kitts and other parts of the region. He and Ergen had announced last month that they had formed a consortium which specializes in cannabidiol (CBD) medicines and they hoped to develop the legal cannabis market in Eastern Caribbean countries including St Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, and Antigua and Barbuda.
In the press release on April
30 when the formation of the consortium was announced, it was stated that the
first plane load of hemp seed for a designated parcel of land totaling 300
acres would arrive on Thursday, May 2.
On Monday, at a press conference at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort where he used strong and sometimes foul language, David said the plants and seeds had been declared to Customs and other relevant government agencies prior to his arrival, in accordance with local procedure, and he insisted that after exhaustive testing nothing illegal was found.
And he made clear his intention
to take legal action, as he suggested that Prime Minister Harris was behind his
arrest, following a meeting he had with him on Sunday at the Park Hyatt Hotel.
“It was a very civil meeting,
very polite meeting, I sat down opposite him. It was very, very nice; we sat
and talked for 15 minutes. I left. I was being asked to do something I didn’t
want to do, so I left. Chase [Ergen] went in and started having conversation
with him. A bunch of witnesses who work there saw his guards pick Chase up and
take him out, and the next thing you know he’s being arrested for drugs, for
cocaine, which is Ketamine, which is his medicine that has been taken away from
him and he’s now languishing in jail,” David said on Monday. Ergen was
subsequently released without charge.
“So let me tell you, Mr Harris,
what’s gonna go down. There are three lawyers here from the UK and they’re
gonna take you down, Sir; you don’t do that to me or to my friend.”
“What he’s done is illegal,
it’s wrong and it’s unconscionable. I took on four of the biggest companies in
the United States and I beat them after seven years of lawsuits, just out of
principle, nothing else, because they called me a liar. Mr Harris here has a
whole new thing coming at him,” David added.
A statement from David’s
company, Swissx – a cannabis and CBD business based in Gstaad, Switzerland – said
the lawsuits against Harris and the government would be filed in St Kitts this
Asked to elaborate on his claim
that talks with Harris broke down after the Prime Minister asked him to do
something he did not wish to do, David declined to do so at the advice of
members of his legal team who were in the back of the room where the press
conference was being held.
When David and Ergen announced
the formation of their consortium last month, they said their plans included
purchasing agricultural land and partnering with farmers to create a
cooperative entity modelled after the ones in Switzerland. At that time they
said the consortium had already had its first meetings with business and
government leaders across the region and would be expanding its outreach this
They added that the consortium would create thousands of jobs and also tap into the rich cultural history and cannabis know-how of the strengthening Rastafarian movement in the region.
“The Eastern Caribbean is in
perfect position as cannabis shifts from being an illegal $400 billion business
globally to a legal one worth ten times that. It will be the Silicon Valley of
cannabis, the Wall Street, the Hollywood,” David had said. “Ultimately we are
bringing cannabis back to its birthplace.”
Ergen had added: “St. Kitts-Nevis and its neighbours are ideally situated to produce the highest quality CBD in the world. We have no doubt we will be able to double their GDPs within a matter of years as the region takes its rightful place in a market that is literally changing people’s lives.”
Barbados PM Tightlipped on Sale of Country’s Majority Shares in LIAT
Barbados, Thursday May 16, 2019 – As LIAT shareholder
governments struggle to come up with a viable solution to keep the island-hopping
carrier in the skies, Prime Minister Mia Mottley is remaining tight-lipped on
the talks while a fellow shareholder suggests Barbados wants to offload its
Mottley stopped short of saying whether Government would
dispose of its 49 per cent interest in the cash-strapped carrier, declaring
instead that she will not be having any discussions in the public domain.
She would only say that she was focused on ensuring reliable and affordable regional transport.
The Prime Minister was responding to a question during the
annual luncheon of the Barbados Employers’ Confederation (BEC) at the Lloyd
Erskine Sandiford Centre yesterday.
Mottley said: “Let’s just say we agree on the mission, and
the mission is that there must always be reliable affordable access for travel
in the region as there must be nationally. And I can assure you and the country
that we are working on this every day.
“But you also have to take the reality of an existence as
you find it and then determine whether the modality that you have is the best
mechanism by which to deliver on that objective.”
Her comments come amid speculation that Bridgetown intends
to give up its shares so it could start its own airline. It’s been a week since
fellow shareholder, the government of Antigua and Barbuda, confirmed that it
had officially submitted a document to authorities in Barbados indicating
interest in buying its shares.
According to reports out of St John’s, following a recent
meeting of the airline’s shareholder governments at which Mottley was not
present, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said a proposal was submitted to the
Barbados Government on May 7, and he was anticipating a favourable response.
The Barbados representative reportedly indicated that the
proposal would be examined.
While sources have indicated that the Barbados Government
was willing to sell its shares, responding to the question for an update on
regional transport and issues relating to LIAT today, Mottley said she would
speak on the matter at an “appropriate time”, suggesting that discussions were
at a delicate stage.
“I have been in public life long enough to know that when
discussions are at a sensitive stage that the worst thing you can do is up the
ante by trying to have some kind of public expression that may well lead to
hardened positions and an inability for people to negotiate in good faith,” she
“Suffice it to say that the government of Barbados, at the
appropriate time, when discussions are concluded with stakeholders at all
levels, will speak to the country.
“Whatever means we choose, whether existing or other, there
will be a commitment to providing affordable, reliable air travel between those
in the Caribbean because without that we accept that there will be a serious
constraints on our people. But there are multiple ways of being able to do that
in the context within which we operate.”
Mottley added: “Similarly, we are not the only player so
that we also have to be mindful of that. Fortunately, the feminine genes in me
do not require of me, the need to beat chest in public.”
In addition to Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda where the
airline is based, the other major shareholding governments are St Vincent and
the Grenadines and Dominica. After years of coaxing, Grenada last week
announced that it was officially a shareholder.
The four territories together make up just over 94 per cent
The remaining shareholders are made up of private companies,
other Caribbean governments and employees.
LIAT and other officials have been engaged in back-to-back
meetings trying to find a solution to keep the airline afloat, while exploring
the possibility of a minimum guarantee scheme, which would see countries
benefiting from the airline services contributing financially.
LIAT currently employs over 600 people and operates 491 flights weekly across 15 destinations. (Barbados Today)
Jamaican Financial Group Takes over Regional Insurance Conglomerate
KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday May 16, 2019 – The largest and most profitable financial services group in Jamaica now owns regional insurance conglomerate Guardian Holdings Limited (GHL).
NCB Financial Group Limited (NCBFG) says it has successfully completed the acquisition of 74,230,750 ordinary shares in GHL, following the granting of all necessary regulatory approvals, including in Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago, and the closing of the take-over bid earlier this month.
The shares were taken-up and paid for on Monday.
Based on the shares acquired, NCBGH now owns nearly 62 per
cent of the outstanding shares in GHL.
“As we stated at the beginning of this journey, we believe
this transaction is a game-changer in the history of the region. Amidst the
context of the de-risking impacting the region, we are proud and excited about
the implications and prospects of two leading indigenous Caribbean institutions
coming together to drive economic growth, customer and shareholder value,” said
NCBFG Chairman Michael Lee-Chin.
Patrick Hylton, Group President and CEO of NCBFG added that
with each having become stand-alone regional leaders, “NCB and GHL combined
have the opportunity to become a world class financial services conglomerate,
which has positive implications for our shareholders, our region and its
GHL CEO Ravi Tewari said the development should allow his
firm to better serve the region.
“Since the acquisition of the first block of shares in 2016,
the Guardian Group began to see opportunities for a very positive impact for
the shareholders, clients and employees of the Guardian Group. This further
deepening of the relationship between two leading Caribbean companies augurs
well for the acceleration of these positive impacts for Guardian and the region,”
NCBFG was incorporated in April 2016 as the financial
holding company for National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited. Through the bank
and its wealth management, life and general insurance, and offshore banking
subsidiaries, it provides a wide array of financial products and services.
The NCB Group includes NCBJ, NCB Capital Markets Limited and
its subsidiaries in Barbados and Cayman, NCB Insurance Company Limited,
Advantage General Insurance Company Limited, NCB (Cayman) Limited, Clarien
Group Limited and its subsidiaries in Bermuda, Guardian Holdings Limited and
its subsidiaries, as well as NCB Global Finance Limited in Trinidad and Tobago.
GHL, the parent company for the integrated financial services group Guardian Group with a focus on life, health, property and casualty insurance, pensions and asset management, serves markets in 21 countries across the English and Dutch Caribbean, including Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica, Curacao, Aruba, St Maarten and Bonaire.
Fortress Funds Achieve Strong Results in First Quarter of 2019
Barbados, Thursday May 16, 2019 – Funds managed by Fortress
Fund Managers had achieved “consistently strong results” at the end of the
first quarter of 2019, following an encouraging start to the year.
The good news was shared with investors in the leading fund
manager’s March 2019 quarterly report, released this month. It comes against
the backdrop of a move by the United States Federal Reserve to pause its rate
increases implying that “global interest rates may stay lower for longer and
continue to support financial markets,” the report stated.
The report focused on three funds: the flagship Caribbean
Growth Fund, the Caribbean High Interest Fund which focuses on income and
capital preservation, and the Caribbean Pension Fund.
The Caribbean Growth Fund gained 5.7 per cent in the first
quarter and was up 1.1 per cent over the past year as global stocks recovered
strongly from the weakness of last year. The Net Asset Value (NAV), which is
the total value of the securities the fund owns divided by the number of fund
shares outstanding, finished March 29 at $6.0082. The Fund’s annual compound
rate of return since its inception in 1996 has increased to 8.4 per cent per
returns in US, international, and emerging markets drive Growth Fund’s returns
While Caribbean stocks saw mixed returns during the quarter
with Jamaica and Trinidad strengthening slightly as shares in Barbados
weakened, global equities rallied to start the year, helped by a more friendly
interest rate and global trade backdrop than had obtained through most of 2018.
“The Fund benefited from its substantial investments in the
US, international and emerging markets equities via the Fortress Global Funds,
with solid returns in these areas driving the Fund’s overall return for the
quarter,” the report said.
With regard to Barbados, the report noted that the
government’s “fiscal reforms and the aftermath of the domestic bond
restructuring are likely to keep a lid on economic growth in the
short-term.” It went on to add, however,
that Fortress was hopeful that the steps taken would yield better prospects in
the long-term to the benefit of businesses in the island.
The Caribbean High Interest Fund achieved a return of 1.5
per cent for the first quarter though it is down 0.5 per cent over the past
year. Its annual compound rate of return since inception in 2002 is now 4.1 per
cent per year. The NAV of the Fund’s Accumulation share finished March 29 at
$1.9575, while the Distribution share finished at $0.9984. During the quarter,
the fund benefited from the “rallying bond market and from some of the same
improvement in risk appetite that lifted stock markets.” Net assets of the Fund were $136 million, up
from $131 million this time last year.
Fortress is hopeful that the recent quieting of
international trade frictions will allow global economic growth to resume its
prior upward trend after last year’s interruption.
“If this happens, interest rate increases may eventually
re-enter the picture. The average term to maturity of the Fund’s portfolio
remains relatively short to limit its sensitivity to interest rate changes,”
the report said.
With the Fund having had only “minimal exposure to the
government of Barbados bonds prior to the default; there is consequently the
potential to add exposure selectively now that the risk/reward proposition has
a significant strength of Fortress funds
The three classes of shares under the umbrella of the
Caribbean Pension Fund rose between 1.6 per cent and 5.1 per cent in the first
quarter of the year. This constitutes a
return of between -0.6 per cent and 1.6 per cent over the past year. The fund manager reiterated that “proper
portfolio diversification is an essential ingredient especially for very
long-term pension investing, and this diversification is a significant strength
of the Fortress funds.”
Despite Fortress’ expressed wish to see some changes on the taxation
front, the recent Barbados budget did not announce a correction to the current
double taxation of pensions.
“We remain hopeful that one will be coming soon because the
machinery of pensions everywhere is predicated on at least minimal tax efficiency
and / or outright incentives,” stated the report.
Fortress also reminded investors that it seeks and continues
to find attractively valued areas of global and Caribbean stock markets in
which to invest at prices that imply substantial future returns.
“There will always be ups and downs but we are cautiously
optimistic on the outlook from here,” the report concluded.
Fortress manages more than $650 million across 11 different funds with regional and global investments.
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