Government duped over sports event

Two ministries in the Cayman Islands government paid $25,000 each for a sporting event that never happened.

Manchester-based Andrew Buckner, 46, received $50,000 paid by the Cayman government on the premise of helping to stage the McGee Cayman Classic, a sporting event that aimed to jump-start an anti-bullying campaign. Mr. Buckner was the business partner of Cory McGee, 42, a basketball coach based in London and a former European professional player. Cayman-based public relations company Kelly Holding Ltd. assisted Mr. McGee with the marketing and communications for the event, which was scheduled for September, and helped broker the deal between government and Mr. McGee. On Aug. 27, the event was canceled due to logistical and funding problems.

Sports minister Osbourne Bodden said government will recoup the funds in due course.

“We dealt with this as we do any other request for support,” Mr. Bodden said. “The anti-bullying efforts were supported by me as the minister of youth, and there was value for tourism in the planned event, hence the support from that ministry. We have funding in our budget for non-specific events that will come to us during the year. We met with the principals – who were introduced to us by the director of sports [Collin Anglin], who knows Mr. McGee very well for many years.

In addition to the money paid for the event by the Ministry of Sports, the Ministry of Tourism also paid $25,000 toward the event, which was slated to incorporate a celebrity golf event at North Sound Golf Club, a celebrity all-star basketball game, a youth basketball camp, and concerts featuring primarily country music stars, such as Ira Dean, at Camana Bay. Sports stars such as basketball legend Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, world champion boxer Winky Wright and Manchester United icon Andy Cole were expected to visit, along with Hollywood actors Dennis Quaid, Dennis “The Allstate Guy” Haysbert and Terry O’Quinn.

“The event was to play an important part in our calendar of youth events, and Kelly Holding promoting made it an even more attractive proposal. [The Ministry of Sports] therefore agreed to do $25,000 towards the event. Now we are out of pocket temporarily, until this is refunded to government by Kelly Holding, as they have promised to do,” Mr. Bodden said.

In addition to the money paid for the event by the Ministry of Sports, the Ministry of Tourism also paid $25,000 toward the event.

The plan began to unravel in May, when Mr. Buckner pleaded guilty in the U.K. to various criminal offenses, including fraud and the fraudulent evasion of Value Added Tax. According to court documents, he also used charity golf events to illegally elicit funds from corporate sponsors. Mr. Buckner was sentenced in September to 30 months in jail for those crimes in the U.K.

Mr. McGee had previously said that Mr. Buckner “has organized the Michael Jordan Golf Classic and music tours.” Mr. McGee – who is originally from Tampa, Florida – told the Cayman 27 television station that he felt betrayed by Mr. Buckner and that his business partner made excuses to avoid traveling to Cayman and using the funds he was paid toward the event.

“We just didn’t see it coming. There was no way to see it coming until the things he had previously done in the U.K. caught up with him,” Mr. McGee said.

When contacted by the Cayman Compass on Wednesday afternoon, McGee would clarify his role in the repayment of funds.

“Bottom line is the celebs I mentioned were all committed to the cause,” Mr. McGee said. “Andy tried a deceitful attempt to steal monies via the golf element but his past caught up with him. I don’t do things that are not for the community and children. I was not given the funds, I received $1,000 for accommodation because I was there at least a month prior to the event’s scheduled date. I was there helping with the organizing and meeting with potential sponsors.

“Since Andy was my ‘partner’ I have to pay at least half of the funds back to the government. Even though Andy did all the wrongdoing. That part hurts as I gave my all to help raise awareness.”

Kelly Holding Ltd. CEO Rhonda Kelly said while the event did not pan out, the company will pay back government out of a moral obligation.

“We did not ‘partner’ with them, we were hired as the local promotions company,” Mrs. Kelly said. “We trusted Cory’s judgment because he had spent time in Cayman and was well known and we also were referred to them by local organizations they were discussing sponsorship with.

“The reason Kelly Holding will be paying back the government the money was because it was paid through our company,” stressing that her company did not retain any of the funds. “We will somehow find these funds to pay back to government because it is our reputation on the line, not because we are responsible. We are a Caymanian company and are fully aware of the financial plight of our government and do not want to contribute to this in any way.”

Impetus for the event came from the tragic passing of Caymanian student Ezra McLaughlin, a former youth basketball player who committed suicide last March at age 15 after falling victim to cyber bullying. At the time of the cancelation, Mr. McGee said he would push on with an anti-bullying message to honor his former pupil.

“My focus is and always has been the anti-bullying message and ensuring that what happened to Ezra doesn’t happen to any more of Cayman’s young people,” Mr. McGee said.

To that end, Mr. McGee coordinated sports icons’ visits to schools in Cayman last month to discuss bullying with students, give advice and sign autographs. Former National Hockey League goalie Grant Fuhr, former West Indian cricketer Michael Holding and former National Football League quarterback Jim McMahon traveled to Cayman Prep and High School, Cayman International School, Cayman Islands Further Education Centre and St. Ignatius Catholic School, and made an additional stop at the Kings Sports Centre after-school program.

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  1. Did anybody in government conduct any Due Diligence on the Principals involved in this project. A quick check on Google might have raised some serious questions about the credibility of what was being proposed. As W C Fields said there’s a sucker born every day .

  2. Folks I agree with the comments of Mr David, and I continue to say that over and over again we are always taken for suckers. One may ask why?. Well Its simple. My people, Caymanians, always give you a first hand chance once you are speaking with a foreign tongue, and it does not matter where you are from or whether you speak our language. Will that change, Good question.