ECONOMIC Development Minister, Guy Joseph, says he is not afraid of any organization seeking to investigate him, and that he welcomes such an investigation.
Joseph was responding to questions from reporters earlier this week about documents circulating online claiming that the Attorney General’s Office requested of the American government assistance with an alleged ongoing criminal investigation into Antonio Assenza and others for allegedly aiding and abetting a crime, aiding and abetting crime within, from outside jurisdiction, and breach of trust by public officer offenses, in violation of Number 9 of 2004, Criminal Code of Saint Lucia.
The documents noted that the request from the Attorney General’s Chambers was submitted on December 15, 2015 and included alongside Assenza — an American citizen who in May 2008, incorporated an entity called Asphalt & Mining Company — St. Lucian businessman, Andre Edgar, and Minister Guy E. Joseph.
“If there is an investigation on me, I do not want it stopped. I want it to happen to let everybody see the outcome of it,” Joseph said.
According to the documents from online whistleblower, OffShoreAlert, the request from St. Lucia was pursuant to the Agreement between the United States and St. Lucia on the Application of the Treaty between the United States and the government of four countries comprising the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. St. Lucia signed that treaty on April 18, 1996 in Castries.
It seems that the authorities at the time were trying to determine whether the persons named above conspired to ensure that the Asphalt and Mining Company would be successful in its bid for the $157 million development project for the Hewanorra International Airport.
The request for assistance from St. Lucia outlined the facts of case this way:
“In 2009, the St. Lucian Port Authority requested proposals for the development of a new airport, which was an estimated $157 million project. After evaluating the submitted proposals, the Port Authority was to present their recommendation to the St. Lucian Cabinet, who would make the final determination. With input from Sean Matthews, the head of the Port Authority, and others, Assenza/Asphalt & Mining submitted a proposal for the project. Prior to and during the request for proposal process, Assenza, Edgar, Joseph, and Matthews were in regular communication with one another via phone. The volume of calls increased at key points in the bidding period, including before and after Assenza’s pitch meeting with the Port Authority. In August 2009, the Port Authority recommended that a competitor of Assenza’s be awarded the bid, with Assenza’s bid ranked last out of the three proposals received.
“In September 2009, Matthews met with the St. Lucian Cabinet to present the development plans. A high volume of calls between Assenza, Edgar, Joseph, and Matthews occurred around Matthew’s presentation to the Cabinet. A few days after the meeting, Joseph provided the Port Authority with additional details about Asphalt & Mining’s proposal. In October 2009, Matthews and the Port Authority recommended further negotiation with Asphalt & Mining. The Port Authority then wrote to all three bidders notifying them that their bids were unsuccessful and, under instructions from the Cabinet, issued a new request, or proposals. Asphalt & Mining submitted a new proposal.
“In January 2010, the Port Authority recommended Asphalt & Mining as the winning bidder. In February 2010, the Cabinet approved the award to Asphalt & Mining. As part of their winning bid, Asphalt & Mining agreed to provide US$23,550,000 interest-free counterpart financing for the project. St. Lucia planned to obtain the rest of the financing for the project from Deutsche Bank. In July 2012, Deutsche Bank notified the Port Authority that they could not move forward with their portion of the financing, in part because Assenza failed the bank’s due diligence requirements. The project did not proceed at that time due to lack of funding.
“The St. Lucian authorities believe that the facts are indicative of a criminal agreement between Assenza and public officials in the government of St. Lucia regarding this public works project.”
Efforts by The VOICE to authenticate the request from St. Lucia to the American government were unsuccessful.However, The VOICE was able to ascertain that such a treaty does exist.
Not even government can authenticate the request at this time. Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, who has also been named in the report, has admitted that the documents containing the request are not with the current Attorney General’s Office, raising several questions about its veracity. The Prime Minister told reporters he planned to launch an internal investigation into the matter.