Leader of the Opposition Hon. Andrew Fahie has called for a Commission of Inquiry into the $7M government invested into BVI Airways stating that the deal was a scam that needs to be looked into.
While speaking in the House of Assembly on 26 March during the debate of the Virgin Islands Recovery and Development Agency Act, 2018, Hon. Fahie chronicled his attempts to wave a red flag on the deal and get answers on the matter of the BVI Airways investment. Now he said the time has come for action.
The fact that the airline received a truly large sum from Government but never delivered the non-stop flight between the BVI and Miami has been harped on by Leader of the Opposition who continued to follow the matter via questions and answers in the House of Assembly.
While noting the recent update on the matter by Premier and Minister for Finance, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith, Hon. Fahie told the House of Assembly that he has enough information now to make a decision. “It is not finished Madame Speaker. I asked what we were doing to get the money — “we were going [to]court”. I asked again just two sittings ago well how [is] this thing going now –“we discussing with the Attorney General on the way forward”. I heard enough. It’s time for a commission of inquiry.”
“It’s time for a full investigation of this plane. I heard enough. I don’t want to hear anymore. It’s three years $7.2M gone and you know what irks me, we have a Director here walking around free and nobody ask this Director – well pal come in here and tell us where our money gone… When you don’t collect $7M for a plane and it out there three years now, but you are putting a common man in jail for a bottle of water and three years now and we are not even seeing where the $7M gone. It is not $700,000 that you could tell them give us a little payment plan — $7Million,” he added.
In elaborating on how he arrived at making the call for a Commission of Inquiry the Leader of the Opposition said: “When I came in the House and I heard about the plane I turned round and I asked. The first answer I got was this — “it is going to prejudice the government’s negotiation in the matter” – so they cannot answer. I came back again when I heard on the street that the plane moving again. I came back and asked, they told me that they entered into an agreement but they cannot say anymore at this time. I came back again. All in here must have gotten sick of me asking the same question 10, 15 times, up, down, across round and round because I am trying to get answers for the people.”
“I came back a couple months again and Madame Speaker when I asked this time you know what they told me – the deal is signed, but the leader had information, they google who they want — that some of the characters that were involved were no good, but they still signed,” he recalled.
Hon. Fahie also mentioned that he was told that the payment, as part of the BVI Airways deal was going to be made in installments and he said he was provided a copy of the payment schedule which showed how the money was going to be disbursed. “The payment schedule showed within two months what is going to be released and the criteria to release it and it showed each month by month add up to a year even within two years the $7M cannot be released unless certain criteria were fulfilled.”
However, Hon. Fahie said that he was at a social event and learnt through conversation that full payment had already been made. “I said no man that cannot be, it is a payment schedule I said that is hearsay…I came to the House and asked again – tell me if the $7M has been released? All gone – not according to the schedule.”
“I came back to this House and I told the House that a cow is going to fly over the moon before that plane fly, and if the plane flies from the BVI to Miami, I Andrew Arturo Fahie will pay for everybody ticket and resign — I said that in this House,” he said.
The Opposition Leader said that based on what he gleaned he was sure the plane was not going to fly. “I was away when they sent me a picture of the five Ministers on the plane waving. I said the plane is not going and fly. As a matter of fact, one (Minister) even sent me to say you said the plane ain’t going to fly, but the plane here, we on it; eat that,” he noted.
Nonetheless, Hon. Fahie said that his announcements about the deal were ignored as advancements. “The public relations was good you know. Even my sister told me, boy Fahie you look bad, the plane going to fly, it up Beef Island; dem boy on the plane. I said man you too? The plane will not fly, it is a scam.”
Premier Smith did not address the scam accusation or the call for a commission of inquiry that was made by the Leader of the Opposition. Instead Dr. Smith explained how Government approached the airline deal. He told the House: “While we were on the process of the airport it was obvious to me that we needed better airlift. And so we looked at an additional way – that was the BVI Airways way. The proposal was a good proposal in many ways.”
However the Premier said that after all of the discussions the airline was unable to deliver. “Madame Speaker the Leader of the Opposition asked me about it on several occasions and I have said that I have been in discussions now with the Attorney General to see what we can do as far as the recovery of assets are concerned.”
The Premier further noted that only now the Government can claim that the agreement with BVI Airways has been breached. “It is true that it has been some time, but it wasn’t until August last year that we were in a position to say that at the time the agreement had been breached. Now we can go on to this other process and that’s where we are at the moment,” Hon. Smith mentioned.