Cabinet ‘deliberating’ Turnquest matter

PM: We will get back to you

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday that Cabinet is “deliberating” on resignation calls and accusations made against Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest by two companies alleging his involvement in a reported $20 million-plus fraud scheme.

When asked about the calls from the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) for Turnquest to resign over allegations of fraud contained in a recently filed writ by two companies he was a director for, and asked whether there are any plans for local authorities to launch an “official investigation” into the claims, as called for by former PLP minister Damian Gomez, Minnis replied, “It’s a court matter right now and Cabinet is deliberating on it. We will get back to you as soon as Cabinet completes our deliberations and discussions.”

Pressed further on whether he is concerned over this case of alleged impropriety being brought, Minnis said, “Let me say again, that Cabinet is deliberating on it and as soon as we’re completed, we’ll get back to you.”

Although he is not named as a defendant in the legal action, the deputy prime minister is accused of involvement in a conspiracy that led to two companies being defrauded of over $20 million.

In a statement of claim, the two companies – Alpha Aviation Limited and Advanced Aviation Limited – allege that Randy Butler, Sky Bahamas Airlines Limited and Aviation Oversight Group Ltd., together with Turnquest, conspired “wrongfully and with intent to injure” those companies and/or “to cause loss to them by unlawful means and/or to enrich themselves…”

The court document alleges that these fraudulent acts occurred between 2008 and 2017. Alpha and Advanced allege that Turnquest, who was a director and manager of those companies, and the other “conspirators”, dishonestly caused them to pay away millions of dollars in “bogus loans” and fraudulent invoices and/or book entries.

On Thursday, Turnquest said he was appalled that his standing as a public servant made calling his name in this dispute between his former business partners worthwhile, and added that his focus remains on his work to improve and modernize the management of the country’s economy and public finances.

The following day, Davis said Turnquest’s statement was “arrogantly dismissive” and missed the point of good governance entirely.

He said Minnis has a duty to act when a minister does not do the “honorable thing”.

On Saturday, Gomez, who is a former minister of state for legal affairs, said while the deputy prime minister professes his innocence, as he is so entitled, the public interest looms much larger than his personal issues.

“This is not a matter that can be compromised and the public has every right to expect the investigation to be transparent and fair to both the accused and the accusers,” he said.

“In the meantime, the honorable deputy prime minister and minister of finance ought to resign from Cabinet in accordance with the conventions of the Westminster system of government.

“Alternatively, the most honorable prime minister is obliged to dismiss his deputy prime minister and minister of finance in the public interest. By now, these steps ought to have been completed.”

Gomez said The Bahamas’ standing as a country “demands no less from its political leadership and those charged with the duty to uphold the rule of law without fear or favor nor regard to the station of those alleged to be guilty of very serious criminal matters impacting our standing in the financial services global environment”.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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