BVI AIRWAYS SAGA: FINDINGS AND OTHER PERSONS INVOLVED UNDER THE MAGNIFIER

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The disclosure into the BVI Airways (BVIA) matter is now completed and it was announced that a disciplinary complaint has been made in the United States against Lester Hyman former BVI Government Attorney and BVI Airways Director with further actions pending for the High Court of the BVI. 

Late last year a filing was made in a US court in relation to Hyman but details were sketchy and in confirming the filing at a press conference on 2 October Premier Andrew Fahie stated that there is not much that he could have disclosed on the matter. All that was known by the media at the time came from a comment in an Offshore Alert article which stated that the BVI Attorney General was the one who filed. Even members of the Opposition sought details  via questions in the House of Assembly but were unsuccessful. 

Now in a statement this week (25 February) the details of the US filing and the steps to be taken going forward were outlined by Hon. Fahie to BVI parliamentarians. The BVI Leader confirmed once again that there was a filing to seek disclosure in the US.  

Hon. Fahie told the House that it was the previous administration that made the steps to recover something from the BVI Airways’ debacle. “In October 2018, the previous Government engaged the fraud and asset recovery law firm of Martin Kenney & Co Solicitors (“MKS”) of the BVI to conduct an investigation to determine why the BVIA project failed; what had happened to the $7.2 million of public funds; and to identify a viable way to recover these lost funds. MKS was instructed to continue with the investigation when the current government was elected in February 2019,” Hon. Fahie stated.  

He further explained that in July last year MKS delivered a report setting out the firm’s interim findings and conclusions. In that report it was noted that the two BAe Avro airplanes acquired in 2016 by BVA for the project were sold to the original supplier of the planes, Tronosjet of Prince Edward Island, Canada and that these planes appear to have been resold in the market and are now being flown by operators based in Missoula, Montana and Australia. 

Legal Actions To Recoup Commence 

Hon. Fahie mentioned that BVI Airways also took legal steps last year when in apparent response to government’s investigation launched a claim against the Government of the Virgin Islands in June 2019. Hon. Fahie said that the BVI Airways claim was made before the American Arbitration Association in New York and sought an unidentified sum of damages. “It is based on allegations which the government strongly refutes,” Hon. Fahie suggested. 

As a result the Premier said that further actions are being taken against BVI Airways. “In response, the Government has instructed MKS to file a defence and a counter claim seeking an award of $7.2 million against BVIA. However, the arbitration proceedings have been placed on hold while the parties comply with the relevant terms of the Framework Agreement to attempt to reach a compromise by way of mediation. Due to the confidential nature of the mediation process, “the BVI government is unable to comment further,” Hon. Fahie noted. 

“In January 2020, disciplinary complaints were filed against Mr Hyman by an MKS Attorney with the Bars of the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts alleging a number of legal professional  ethical violations on the part of Mr. Hyman in connection with his representation of Government in respect of the BVIA matter,” Hon. Fahie further mentioned. 

In noting what the next move was going to be Hon. Fahie announced, “Following the conclusion of the discovery proceedings in Washington DC, the Government intends to bring an action against Mr. Hyman before the BVI High Court for damages based on his conduct in representing the Government in connection with the events leading up to and following the signing of the Framework Agreement with BVA.” 

Hon. Fahie mentioned that in September 2019, the Attorney General of the Virgin Islands, based on the findings of the interim report, filed an application for pre-action discovery against attorney Hyman before the US District Court for the District of Colombia. It was noted that Hyman has opposed the application and the matter now lies before Senior District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth for a decision. 

In noting the issue with Hyman the Premier said, “Attorney Hyman had acted as US legal counsel to the Government of the Virgin Islands from 1987 to July 2017. It was Mr. Hyman who introduced BVIA and its promoters to the Government in 2014.” 

While noting that legal proceedings will be conducted here in the Territory Hon. Fahie said, “Following the conclusion of the discovery proceedings in Washington DC, the Government intends to bring an action against Mr. Hyman before the BVI High Court for damages based on his conduct in representing the Government in connection with the events leading up to and following the signing of the Framework Agreement with BVA.” 

More Persons to be Implicated 

While Hyman is getting the heat for the failed airline deal Premier Fahie said that attention would be turned to others who had a hand in the saga. The BVI Leader told the House of Assembly, “Mister Speaker, I want to make it clear to the people of the Virgin Islands that this Government will leave no stone unturned in its investigation to uncover the truth behind the failed project.” 

“We intend to pursue all rights available to the Government to determine who benefited from the use of public funds and to seek recovery of the $7.2 million lost in this project, which are now needed to assist the many concerns, especially those being named by the opposition who served under the previous administration when the money and planes went missing…anyone legally responsible for the Government’s loss will be held to account to the extent that the law permits,” Hon. Fahie declared.

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