Premier says he ‘dictated’ Ritz statement

Questions were raised this week about whether Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush was speaking on behalf of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman developer Michael Ryan during a broadcast statement issued last Thursday.

The statement, made public on the government television channel Thursday evening, 22 November, provided a lengthy account of Premier Bush’s take on the Ritz property’s new owners, their attorneys and who owes government $6 million in deferred duty payments stemming from Mr. Ryan’s tenure as property developer and owner.

A previous draft of the statement, issued to two local media outlets on Wednesday, 21 November, listed as part of the “properties” on the document that the author was “Michael Ryan” and the company was “Stingray Construction” – one of Mr. Ryan’s companies.

However, it was unclear whether the Wednesday, 21 November statement was ever broadcast in full on the government television channel. A revised version aired Thursday.

The Caymanian Compass printed neither version of the statement for legal reasons. Claims made in both statements were substantially reported in the Compass previously, based on comments Mr. Bush made in the Legislative Assembly about The Ritz-Carlton matter.

On Monday, Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin questioned who was running government’s show with regard to the Ritz situation.

“I must insist, on behalf of the people of the Cayman Islands, that the premier tells us whether – when he made the statement on 22 November – he was speaking on Mr. Ryan’s behalf, or as premier of the Cayman Islands,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

“This is a critically important issue, because the outstanding $6 million is, in fact, deferred duties with respect to The Ritz-Carlton property owed to government by Michael Ryan and/or one or other of his companies,” Mr. McLaughlin continued.

Mr. Ryan has said that he does not personally owe any of the deferred duty. The companies allegedly responsible for the payment of the $6 million were in receivership after new owners RC Cayman Holdings Ltd. called in a loan Mr. Ryan owed on the property earlier this year.

The parent company of RC Cayman, Five Mile Holdings Inc., has said they weren’t sure which of the receivership companies formerly owned by Mr. Ryan would have owed the $6 million deferred duty.

Mr. Bush responded in a statement released by his press secretary, Charles Glidden, on Tuesday.

“Premier McKeeva Bush asked Michael Ryan to provide him with information regarding The Ritz-Carlton valuations for the statement, which was made about the new owners of The Ritz-Carlton and the $6 million in outstanding deferred duty,” the statement read. “This information was sent by Mr. Ryan in a Word document via e-mail. The statement was then crafted using this same Word document with the premier dictating the statement to his senior political assistant.”

Premier Bush has said that he supports The Ritz-Carlton property and that the government is prepared to be partners in tourism with the new owners, but that government will pursue the collection of revenue owed.

“If Mr. McLaughlin truly cared about the welfare of the country he would have contacted me directly, rather than playing politics as he always does to the detriment of the populace and publicly accusing me of not doing my duty,” Mr. Bush said. “I did my duty, as explained in my statement. This matter is being dealt with by government’s valuation office and not the Office of the Premier.”

Mr. McLaughlin called on Mr. Bush to explain “his relationship” with Mr. Ryan.

“Further, he must explain why he has compounded the situation by squandering the opportunity afforded by the recent sale of The Ritz-Carlton to recover the outstanding $6 million,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

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