In the face of a barrage of “relentless attacks” by a biweekly tabloid, former Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest yesterday condemned what he said have been “false and misleading” allegations published by the paper.
The Punch published fresh allegations against Turnquest yesterday. Those claims were in relation to allegations published over a week ago, that Turnquest helped to defraud two companies of around $28 million.
Last week, the East Grand Bahama MP denied those claims, but he later resigned from Cabinet. He said that he made the decision to quit to protect the Free National Movement, his constituents and his family.
In a statement yesterday, Turnquest said, “Ever since the government of The Bahamas dismissed a private loan arrangement with a foreign finance firm in favor of an international bond offering, the biweekly tabloid, The Punch, has launched a relentless attack on me and the Ministry of Finance.
“The rationale for the decision made, following extensive analysis by technical experts at the ministry, were fully and objectively explained in Parliament.
“Yet, the personal attacks continue. One has to wonder why? What motivates or is the publisher’s special interest in this particular transaction above all of the other financing transactions the government has issued since coming to office?
“The front page story in today’s edition of the tabloid is a continuation of that attack.
“The allegations contained in the article are false and completely misleading and I condemn and deny them in the strongest terms.
“Today’s attack article and false claims follow an equally damaging article printed in the Thursday, November 26th, 2020 edition of the tabloid, which reported that I purchased two apartment units in Bayroc Condominiums, Nassau, Bahamas and received allowances from the government of $10,000 per month for living accommodation in said units.
“This allegation was intentionally placed to cause public speculation, ridicule and to further damage my reputation and integrity. These allegations are equally false and easily disproved.”
Turnquest resigned after he was accused of being a conspirator in a scheme that allegedly defrauded two companies — Alpha Aviation Limited and Advanced Aviation Limited — of around $28 million.
He was a director and manager of those companies.
The alleged fraudulent acts occurred between 2008 and 2017, according to a writ filed on November 16 by the law firm of Michael Scott, QC, a prominent FNM and chairman of the Hotel Corporation.
The writ alleges 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 writ alleges that “as at December 31, 2017”, the “conspirators” dishonestly caused the companies to pay out via “bogus loans” and wire transfers, millions of dollars to entities owned and controlled by Turnquest and Butler.
The allegations, which first appeared in The Punch, set off a firestorm.
In his resignation letter, Turnquest said, “When I met with the prime minister…, I informed him that while I am confident that once the allegations against me have been fully ventilated through the courts, my reputation of transparency and accountability will be vindicated.
“I did not want a private business dispute, which occurred prior to my taking public office, to become a distraction to the government, or to the important national work that lies ahead.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis was sworn in as minister of finance yesterday, but only on an interim basis.
Minnis told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that he spent the weekend mulling who to give the job to.
Turnquest is the third minister from Minnis’ Cabinet to resign.
St. Anne’s MP Brent Symonette resigned as minister of financial services, trade and industry and immigration in July 2019.
Elizabeth MP Duane Sands resigned as minister of health this May, following his controversial decision to allow six permanent residents to disembark on New Providence and quarantine at home in breach of the emergency order.