by S Brian Samuel
Imagine: one day you’re a much-lauded hotel developer in Grenada, the Prime Minister’s good friend, the darling of the CBI Programme, appointed Ambassador-at-Large and Consul General in Miami.
Then, with the project almost finished, overnight, you’re made Public Enemy Number One, castigated in the most vulgar terms, by your former best buddy the PM – how did this happen? More to the point: who does this? Start a bunfight and halt a project, when it’s 80% complete? Grenada did.
Warren Newfield, a South African national based in the USA, registered True Blue Development as an approved CBI project in Grenada in 2017, with construction starting in 2019. Everything was going splendidly: Kimpton Hotels signed on early to manage and market the property, units sold fast, and the construction site was a hive of activity, employing up to 300 people at times. The love affair between honest developer and eager Prime Minister blossomed, leading to an avalanche of gratefully bestowed diplomatic appointments. “I must commend the project developers for creating this idea and executing it,” PM Mitchell, October 2020.
Then, with the hotel 80% complete, advance bookings growing nicely, out of the blue: a falling-out. Not just a falling-out, a huge, mud-slinging fight, between the two men, which quickly ended up at the world’s final court: International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Note: Grenada doesn’t have a good batting average at ICSID, the last time we went there, over Grenlec, we lost, costing the country over US$63 million, to buy back an asset we didn’t need. The PM didn’t just take his dispute with Newfield to ICSID, he also took it to the court of popular opinion, of the lowest sort. Against his former friend, Mitchell brought out the race card, in parliament: “Imagine a white man coming and tell us we must change the government of Grenada? Could you believe this character? If I were in the street, I would say another word.” So, how come it took you so long, to realise your former friend was a racist?
What could be so important, so egregious a failure on the part of the developer, to warrant a total shutdown of the project, within touching distance of the finish line, causing such huge negative impacts? As usual with these secretive CBI deals, no one knows the true story, only what we are drip-fed. Government accused Newfield of not spending all the CBI proceeds on the hotel, and demanded a 20% escrow account. Newfield replied that the Government was welcome to audit his books, and that the government couldn’t impose retroactive regulations, a deal is a deal. That’s the official story anyway, but obviously, not the whole story. The real story.
The result? Meltdown, all construction halted, abandoned buildings begging to be finished, forlorn, rapidly rusting in the sea breeze. A blight, an unfinished insult that currently dominates the southern end of Grenada’s premier tourist asset, Grand Anse Beach. An eyesore, which will soon begin to resemble the abandoned ruins of Chernobyl, as nature swiftly reclaims her own.
Which intelligent, rational person, as the PM surely is, makes such an irrational decision? You mean that both parties couldn’t come to an amicable settlement, for the good of their common goal? So, we can only conclude that there must be some other reason, behind the PM’s actions. And what that reason is: only God, the PM and a select few others know.
Grenada abounds with birdies, and this little birdie whispered into my left ear: that the reason behind the Government’s displeasure with Newfield, may be related to a certain Charles Liu, holder of a Grenadian diplomatic passport, 5 years after being indicted on a multi-million fraud case by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). But what do I know? Like all the rest of us Grenadian citizens: not one damn thing.