We were searched each time we  visited the PM  – Harlequin lawyer
March 1, 2013
We were searched each time we visited the PM – Harlequin lawyer

The lawyer who represents Harlequin Resorts and Hotels in St Vincent and the Grenadines has said that he and the officials from Harlequin were searched every time they visited Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves.{{more}}

Samuel Commissiong, in an interview yesterday, told SEARCHLIGHT that he has been present on every occasion the developers met with Gonsalves.

“Oh yes I was, no doubt about that,” he said.

The Prime Minister reported to the nation that on February 17, he was “accosted” on a LIAT flight, which had just landed in Barbados, by two journalists from the BBC television show Panorama. He said the men told him that there were three witnesses that Dave Ames, chairman and owner of Harlequin Resorts, owner of Buccama Bay Resort, came to his office with a briefcase of money and then left without it.

Commissiong said during those visits to the Prime Minister, he never observed any briefcase being left at the office of the prime minister.

“Not only did I not see any, but we were subject to security searches when we went to see the prime minister. From the time you go through the door, security people check you and your luggage. You couldn’t carry too much luggage in that place, it would be put aside to wait until you get back.

“There were no suitcases; handbags would be checked. Suitcases as is commonly understood, never went into the prime minister’s office. There would be handbags, some might be bigger than others, but they were handbags,” the veteran lawyer said.

Commissiong said at the start of the Harlequin project, the prime minister told the developers three things in his presence: “All beaches in St Vincent are public and the public must have access even though they build a hotel. 2. This is country of laws and the laws must be obeyed. 3. Whenever you are coming to see me, make the appointment through your lawyer Sam Commissiong, and bring him when you are coming.”

Commissiong said he thinks the Prime Minister stipulated the last condition to “avoid confusion because they might have expected more than they were entitled to and I would guide them against that.”

“So when they came, they always made the appointment through me. They would call from the UK or Buccament and I would make the appointment,” the lawyer said.

A spokesperson for Harlequin also told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that the allegations of bribery are untrue.

“There is absolutely no truth to this highly offensive and defamatory allegation.

“…The BBC did not inform Harlequin that they would be visiting St Vincent nor did they request permission to conduct any formal interview about or at the resort during their time in the Caribbean.

“We fail to understand why, if the BBC is seeking to produce a balanced programme, they were not prepared to give Harlequin the opportunity to refute their allegations whilst in St Vincent. We remain extremely concerned that the BBC is being misled in its enquiries by parties currently being pursued by Harlequin in the courts, in order to distract from Harlequin’s strong legal case against them.”

“Harlequin has had no contact from the UK’s Serious Fraud Office whatsoever and has no reason to believe there would be any investigation.

“It is Harlequin’s strong belief that disinformation and rumours are being deliberately fed to the media by parties who are currently the subject of legal action by Harlequin,” the spokesperson said.

Matthew Chapman, a producer for the BBC Panorama show being prepared on Harlequin told SEARCHLIGHT on Thursday, “I wasn’t aware we needed Harlequin’s permission to visit the region. The company has been made fully aware of the allegations to be made against them in our forthcoming programme, they have known them for some time, and we await their answers with interest.”