May 14, 2004
Understanding the Ottley Hall Inquiry

The Ottley Hall Inquiry has recommenced. But who are or have been to date the main players in this extremely complicated saga?
The following is a brief review of some of the key players and companies repeatedly mentioned during the course of the Inquiry testimony.{{more}}

Justice Ephraim Georges: Inquiry Commissioner, who acts as chairperson of the Inquiry.
Anthony Astaphan: Senior Counsel to the Commission.
Joe Delves: Junior Counsel to the Commission or Astaphan’s junior.
Cantiere Navale Valdettaro (Valdetarro): The contractor for the Ottley Hall Project.
Dr. Aldino Rolla: president of Valdetarro Shipyard and the main player behind the controversial project.
Bertram Commissiong Q.C: a Vincentian lawyer who was appointed chairman of the board of St. Vincent Yatching and Shipping.
Richard Joachim: a local contractor and chairman of the National Commercial Bank which loaned monies to the project
Caribbean Charter and Yacht Yard Holdings, or CCYY: a company formed to own and manage the Ottley Hall marina. Its composition was Government of SVG, holding 49 per cent of the shares, St. Vincent Yachting and Shipping Company 51 per cent. N.B: While the representative of the Government was former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell, there were no management or technical representatives.
St. Vincent Yachting and Shipping on the other hand had a board of directors and seven shareholders. The chairman of the board was Bertram Commissiong Q.C. The late Richard Gunn was later appointed as managing director at the request of Rolla, said to be a long-time acquaintance.
Istranka: a ship supposedly formerly owned by former President Tito of Yugoslavia. This ship was sold on October 26, 1990 by the Portland Shipping Limited (owned by Rolla) to St. Vincent Yachting and Shipping for £1 and “other considerations.” This, less than two months after Portland Shipping had bought the Istranka for £500,000.
The Istranka superyacht was described by the senior counsel Anthony Astaphan as nothing more than “a hull awaiting repairs at the Valdetarro shipyard”. It was supposed to be used as security for loans. Valdetarro was also supposed to supply two other vessels for a charter fleet, which was projected to contribute 52 per cent of the net revenue of the entire project, along with the Istranka.
Dr. Rolla was a “hidden” partner; he effectively controlled the company.
All the documents from St. Vincent Yachting and Shipping that the auditing firm of Coopers and Lybrand reviewed were signed by Rolla alone. So, he not only owned the company (Valdettaro) that was contracted to design, build, train personnel and supervise the Ottley Hall Project, he was also part of the company (CCYY) that hired him.
Rolla had to be a “hidden” partner at St. Vincent Yachting and Shipping not only due to the obvious conflict of interest, but also because before the Ottley Hall Project could proceed, Valdetarro needed to secure a performance bond for $2.5 million. This is in case the contractor defaults before completion; the client can continue the project up to the 2.5 million dollars. But the bond is applicable only after the final completion and an acceptance certificate has been issued.
An Italian government organisation, the Special Department for Export Credits Insurance of Italy (SACE), agreed to put up the bond. One stipulation, however, was that no Italian could be on the client team. So Rolla remained in the background and thus secured the insurance guarantee for Valdetarro. SACE then put the money into escrow at Westdeutsche Landesbank (Europa) Financial Services Limited (WestLB), a German merchant bank.
The loans, payments in between stages, who signed the certificates, why no technical person represented the client, the lack of a proper feasibility study or an environmental impact study – a myriad of questions will be answered during the rest of the Inquiry and condensed in future SEARCHLIGHT reports.