The Dart group of companies late Tuesday denied paying any funds toward the recent settlement between the Cayman Islands government and Italy-based GLF construction over port negotiations that were terminated by Premier McKeeva Bush earlier this year.
“Based on speculation by certain local media, the Dart group confirmed [Tuesday] it has not participated in any way in the settlement with GLF, and specifically not paid nay settlement to GLF on behalf of the Cayman Islands government,” a company statement read. “Nor has it provided any funds to the Cayman Islands government or to any third parties, to be used in relation to a settlement with GLF.”
Premier Bush announced last week that a settlement was reached with the Italian construction firm which was previously in negotiations to build a new cruise berthing facility in George Town.
The premier said his government had “good reason” to end its memorandum of understanding with GLF.
“The risks of nonperformance were simply too high,” Mr. Bush said of the previous negotiating agreement. “I wish to inform the public that a settlement agreement has now been reached with GLF; and not even remotely close to the astronomical sums of $35 million that have been bandied about.”
The final settlement amount was thought to be less than $3 million.
“Not only have we agreed [to a settlement], but these sums will not be coming out of government’s coffers,” Mr. Bush said.
That last statement has set off a firestorm of speculation from people commenting on local news websites – including www.cayCompass.com – and on local radio talk shows regarding who may have put up the funds for the GLF settlement.
When asked last week about where the settlement money came from, a spokesperson for the premier’s office indicated he was not in a position to comment on the matter. Nothing further had been received by the Caymanian Compass as of press time. Governor Duncan Taylor’s office has also declined to comment on the matter.
The Cayman Islands government is currently negotiating the proposed construction of a cruise berthing facility in George Town with China Harbour Engineering, a company owned by the Chinese government. The China Harbour proposal not only includes the George Town facility, but also proposed improvements to the Spotts dock and the construction of a new cruise dock in West Bay. Premier Bush said some discussions regarding cruise ship visits to Cayman Brac have also taken place.
Since 2003, the Cayman Islands government has been in talks with a number of different companies regarding the potential construction of a port berthing facility in George Town. Talks with Misener Marine, Atlantic Star, Dart Enterprises Construction Company, GLF and now China Harbour have been in various stages of negotiations, but no final deal has ever been agreed upon. Right now, cruise ships coming into George Town must anchor off shore and ferry passengers in by tender boat.
Mr. Bush said an independent business case analysis is being conducted on the China Harbour proposal by the KPMG accounting firm, something that was not done as part of the GLF negotiations. He set out a number of reasons for why Cayman’s government decided not to go with the Italy-based firm to build the port facility. Those included: No evidence that GLF would have the funds available to do the work, requirements for GLF to bring in construction equipment – adding more cost, as well as greater cost of capital.
The premier also said GLF’s local construction partners – Royal Construction – started private talks with a jewellery store company to own and operate the upland development portion of the port project without government’s knowledge.
GLF has not commented at all on the settlement matter.
Royal Construction sent the following statement to the Compass on Wednesday: “Royal has not been a participant in any further negotiations or rumoured settlement between GLF and the Cayman Islands government.”