Witness dents Mac's claims
(CNS): The premier’s claims that he was paid money by developer Stan Thomas for assisting with the sale of land at Vista Norte in 2004 are undermined by a witness statement given to the police by Brian Wright, who was involved in the sale of the land by Gil Freytag to Thomas in 2003. In two statements given to the Financial Crimes Unit he explains the timeline of the deal between the two men and indicates that a deposit of $1.5 milllion had already paid by Thomas to secure the sale in May 2003. Although Bush has not stated exactly when he became involved in the deal, he did not send an invoice to Thomas until what appears to be almost a year after the sale was first agreed.
Despite the implication that a letter Bush sent to Thomas in October 2004 demanding $350,000 was related to the re-zoning, not the sale, of the land, the premier has said that the letter was a mistake sent by his assistant. Last week he told The Caymanian Compass that he had clarified that the money he was asking for was on an outstanding balance of $750,000 in relation to work he had done on brokering the sale of the land to Thomas that the developer was trying to buy from Freytag to develop a resort.
Although it is not yet clear when Bush and Thomas became involved in a business relationship via the premier’s family’s real estate company, Windsor Development, it seems the two men first met in Las Vegas in February 2004. At this time the zoning issue for the land remained in question but the sale had been completed, according to Wight’s police statement and documents released under the freedom of information law.
Throughout 2002 and 2003 both the Central Planning Authority and the ministry responsible for planning were keen to see the land in question re-zoned and there seemed to be no objections or concerns over land being cleared for hotel development.
At the end of November 2003 the planning department recommended the re-zoning of all Vista Del Norte lands. However, just over two months later on 2 February 2004, right after the formal completion and registration of the land sale between Thomas and Freytag but a few weeks before Thomas and Bush met in Vegas, the planning director was advised that Cabinet had unexpectedly refused the re-zoning.
According to government documents, that refusal was then overturned in July 2004 when the ministry advised the planning department that “Cabinet had reconsidered the matter” and approval was to be given for the rezoning of all the Vista Del Norte lands and it was to be referred to the Legislative Assembly.
Bush has claimed that he met Thomas in Vegas in order to discuss the details of the resort the property developer was proposing to build on the Vista Norte Lands, where he also wanted to introduce casinos -- an issue the government was actively considering at the time. The premier has said that Windsor Development was not involved in the re-zoning process at all as that application had been made before he became involved in the deal.
Bush, who was at the time leader of government business, has said that the invoice he sent to Thomas in April for $750,000 was for consultancy fees for the sale of the land as he acted as a buyer’s agent.
According to comments the premier made to the Compass, the only media house that he has elected to offer any explanation to, the infamous letter to Thomas asking for the money after all of the re-zoning issues had been addressed was worded and sent to Thomas by Richard Parchment, his political assistant, in error. Bush says another short letter sent the same day clarified what the money was for.
Bush has denied that he has done anything wrong, despite the fact that the letter sent by Parchment remains at the centre of a two-year police probe, which is one of three investigations Bush is now under.
Both these letters are dated 7 October, but the fax stamp on the letter relating to zoning is dated 15 October while the second later has no fax time stamp. Parchment has said he has no explanation for the discrepancy in dates but that he sent both letters on 7 October.
After a year of silence the premier admitted to the local paper that he was involved in a the real estate deal with Thomas and that he went to Las Vegas, where he says the developer gave him a $20,000 goodwill cash deposit. An invoice sent to Thomas in April then asks Thomas to wire a further $355,000 in relation to the deal described as “real estate sales commissions”. The invoice suggests that almost one year after the sales deal which Bush says he worked on had been agreed, he had received only $20,000 of his $750,000 fee.
In Wight’s statement to the police about the chronology of events and the eventual deal between Thomas and Freytag, he makes no mention of Bush’s involvement in the actual sale, though he agrees that Ronald Zimmer, the man that Bush has said he was dealing with, was involved in the deal.
In his first statement Wight tells the FCU officer that the deal was signed at Thomas’ lawyer’s office when the deposit of $1.5 million was paid. He also reveals how the lawyer had been seen hurrying across town to Freytag’s lawyer’s office with the relevant documents.
In a second statement at a meeting with the police, where Wight handed over relevant documents about the sale to the financial cops, he clarified that the sale took place in May 2003 when the first deposit was paid. He said that necessary changes to the contract and other delays meant the closing did not actually occur until January 2004. The sale was then registered with lands and survey in February, ahead of the meeting in Vegas.
See related story: Bush blames assistant
See CPA minutes below.
|CPA Minutes 2004 02 24 (1).pdf||234.32 KB|
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