Antigua and Barbuda: R & R In A Mellon Patch

It has recently been announced that Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, a member of the New World Development Limited, a Hong Kong based conglomerate, has joined Replay Resorts Development Inc. as the new saviour of Half Moon Bay in Antigua.

Readers will no doubt recall the saga of Half Moon Bay, which now goes back 22 years.

Following major damage inflicted by Hurricane Luis to the Half Moon Bay Resort in 1995, the efforts of its long-time private owners to restore the property was systematically frustrated and undermined by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda in order to force its sale of the property to Ponzi fraudster, R. Allen Stanford, who was establishing his centre of activity on Antigua at that time.

The stand-off led to the Government's wrongful use of eminent domain to acquire the Half Moon Bay property, not for any public purpose but to replace one private owner by another. However, by the time the legal process was completed, Stanford had been exposed and was no longer a player.

Despite rulings by the Privy Council in London in 2007 and 2014, successive Antigua & Barbuda governments have steadfastly refused to pay the compensation awarded by the Court at all the levels of the jurisdiction.

Following the decision of Replay Resorts to become involved in the unfinished business of this expropriation, a portion of the compensation owed has been paid by the end 2015, but half of the total amount long overdue as established by an order of the Privy Council still remains due and owing.

This breach of the previous owners' constitutional right to peaceful ownership of private property followed by a decade of non-payment of compensation for what it refers to as compulsory "acquisition", while the government attempts to resell the property to new owners, showcases the ongoing contempt of the Antiguan government for the law in Antigua and in other international jurisdictions, which are currently dealing with this matter.

Apparently, Rosewood Hotels and Resorts have now joined Replay Resorts Development in planning the return of what the press releases refer to as "Rosewood - Half Moon Bay" -- with a fresh approach and new emphasis on its connection to the Mellon Estate.

While it is true that Replay Resorts have announced a 2016 purchase of 24 acres, adjacent to the expropriated Half Moon Bay property from the Estate of Paul and Bunny Mellon, thus completing their sole ownership of the entire Half Moon bay, the refocusing of attention on a Mellon connection is not likely to deflect the memory of those following an international expropriation that is still far from completed.

While Paul Mellon was one of the original seven shareholders of H.M.B. Holdings Limited who formed the Company in 1971 and assembled the properties into what has since been known as "Half Moon Bay", he sold his shares in 1973 to another shareholder in order to avoid the perception of conflict of interest, as the development of the resort required third party financing to proceed.

In fact, apart from the initial two years of formation, the Mellons have had no involvement whatsoever in the development of the Half Moon Bay Resort and its reputation for excellence. It would be surprising if both Replay Resorts and Rosewood Hotels & Resorts were unaware of the tenuous link of the entirely separate development families that ended almost 50 years ago.

The shareholder who bought Paul Mellon's shares remained as Chairman of the Company for almost 30 years and it is he and his family that have resisted the Antiguan Government's breach of its own laws, as well as of the treaties it has signed and the promises it has made not to expropriate foreign-owned private property and businesses.

The vaunted "Mellon" connection is also intended to justify the projected price tag for the land which is being offered for sale by the Replay/Rosewood developers. With a dubious reference to "historical significance", the new owners propose an unprecedented multiple of 24 between the price allegedly paid by them to the Government for the beachfront Half Moon Bay acreage and that which they wish to harvest from its sale to subsequent owners.

Interesting figures have also been quoted by Replay Resorts stating that the expected project scale will be between BPS 150 and US $200 million.

This clearly demonstrates that in its desperation to find any buyer, the Government of Antigua & Barbuda has significantly undersold the property. Many will recall that the Government of Antigua even claimed to have helped find the money for Replay Resorts in Vancouver to purchase the property. Of course, it has never disclosed the means or amounts involved in that transaction.

Equally, while Replay has now revealed that it has found two external backers for the project, their identity has remained undisclosed.

The only source of funds publicised for the development of the project now renamed "Rosewood - Half Moon Bay " is the highly controversial Antiguan Citizen by Investment Programme, commonly known as CIP or Passports for Sale.

The development of the new Half Moon Bay resort has been approved for the CIP investment and Replay has established an international distribution partnership to accelerate sales of Antigua's CIP.

It may be an appropriate warning to recall the recent remarks of David Eby, Attorney General of British Columbia, reported on January 23, 2018 by the National Observer, expressing his considerable concern that Vancouver has become the clearing location of choice for Far East economic crime.

Eby said that he still cannot reveal further details to the public because of ongoing investigations, but he went on to confirm "allegations of serious, large-scale, transnational laundering of the proceeds of crime in British Columbia casinos."

"We knew there was something strange going on, but, my God, we had no idea it was this big."

He added that British Columbia now has an international reputation as a place where the usual rules simply do not "apply to white collar crime, fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering, where even if the rules do apply, enforcement is absent."

Shockingly, he admitted, "There's even a term for the way money is laundered in our province: the 'Vancouver model',"

While there is absolutely no suggestion whatsoever that Rosewood or Replay or their unnamed external partners have done anything wrong, they have all become key beneficiaries of an expropriation of private property and willing parties to its acquisition in the knowledge that full compensation remains willfully outstanding.

No link to the Mellon patch can change the historical narrative firmly attached to Half Moon Bay and still awaiting its final chapters.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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