Nassau Guardian Stories

South Cat Cay developers hope to break ground in six weeks

July 22, 2015

The developers of a proposed $94 million hotel development on South Cat Cay hope to break ground within the next six weeks, paving the way for roughly 200 permanent jobs, according to Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle.
Speaking with Guardian Business, Rolle said that the project would produce some 200 permanent positions and 150 construction jobs over the course of construction, once the government hammers out the terms of the project's heads of agreement with developers South Cat Cay Properties (Bahamas) Limited.
"We're currently negotiating the details of the heads of agreement for South Cat Cay. The developers are very excited and we look to break ground hopefully in another month to six weeks. We're just going through the final phases of the details and once that is completed we will go and do the groundbreaking ceremony.
Prime Minister Perry Christie announced during his 2015/2016 budget communication that the National Economic Council had granted approval in principle to South Cat Cay Properties (Bahamas) Limited for the development of the $94 million project, which ultimately aims to encompass a boutique hotel, a high-end residential development, and a marina on the small cay, near Bimini.
However, the project's developers were unavailable for comment up to press time.
Although the projected employment opportunities and more immediate construction jobs are good news for the tourism sector, concerns over successive administrations' dependency on the "anchor project" model of tourism - particularly for smaller Family Islands - has swelled amid the construction delays at Baha Mar.
Rolle candidly remarked last week that the government had "hard lessons" to learn in light of the present circumstances stalling the opening of the $3.5 billion Baha Mar project. The resort, long touted as the catalyst for the country's economic growth for the remainder of the year, is locked in a well-publicized dispute between its developers, Baha Mar Ltd., and general contractor, China Construction America (Bahamas).
Although Rolle believes that the size of the Baha Mar project or its one-phase approach were not directly responsible for its struggles, he suggested that the lessons learned from the project would influence the government's blueprint for future developments under the pending National Development Plan.
The possible impact of Baha Mar's delay on the economy, unemployment and The Bahamas' sovereign credit rating have sparked a clarion call for more feasible developments from members of the private sector and leaders of the Opposition.
With that in mind, Rolle stressed that South Cat Cay's developers and the government would adopt a more "pragmatic" approach to the development. Rolle did not speculate on when the developers expect to complete the project or whether they would employ a phased construction approach.
"We're going to try to take the most pragmatic approach based on the capacity of the developer and we need to be reasonable under the circumstances," said Rolle.

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Lowe: 30 percent drop in car sales for some BMDA members

July 22, 2015

A leading Bahamas Motor Dealers Association (BMDA) member has stated that the impact of value-added tax (VAT) and a glut of inventory at higher duty rates have presented a "major dilemma" for the auto industry, as BMDA members have suffered a 30 percent drop in new car sales for the first six months of the year.
Nassau Motor Company Limited (NMC) Director and Operations Managing Rick Lowe told Guardian Business that although myriad economic circumstances stacked the deck against the motor dealers industry, the impact of VAT could force some dealers into closure.
"There's an overall economic decline but the VAT is a major dilemma because it's basically increasing the price of vehicles by that amount of money. The duty reduction is a good thing but it's after the fact. Everybody's inventory, for the most part, is the higher duty rates," said Lowe.
Although Lowe welcomed a 10 percent cut in the duty rate as a "balancing effect" to compensate for VAT, the industry's burgeoning inventory imported at the previous rate - done under lengthy order cycles - meant that the industry would likely be unable to enjoy the benefits of the new duty rate for some time.
"It may just be balancing effect. Hopefully once we all sell the inventory at the higher duty rate - there may be loses on the way to sell them - but we may eventually get there, but who knows what will happen down the road?" said Lowe.
While the Christie administration's duty cuts were well received, Lowe lamented the growing burden of business license fees for the sector, noting that most motor dealers' fees jumped from 0.75 percent to 1.5 percent of gross sales. These fees, he said, amounted to more than BMDA members' recent net profits "in many cases".
"Now with Baha Mar in the mix it could potentially put a worse damper on things. Once consumer confidence is shot and investor confidence is shot it takes a while to recover," Lowe said, adding that lingering unemployment in the country continues to have a detrimental effect on sales.
With the country's economic recovery projections bleak at best for the rest of the year, Lowe expressed concern over the future of the industry as some dealers mull closure.
"[Closure] is certainly a last resort that we don't even want to think about in any serious way, but how long can you tread water? If regulations and taxes keep getting piled on, people have to make a determination, particularly if the majority of us are sustaining loses," stated Lowe.
To stimulate sluggish sales, Lowe said that NMC is paying VAT in some cases until the higher duty inventory is depleted, incurring a substantial cut to gross profit on vehicles.
And while Lowe said that the industry's outlook for the remainder of the year is uncertain, he noted that several BMDA members, including NMC and Bahamas Bus and Truck, had entered new markets for goods such as generators in a bid to make ends meet.
"We need to keep our back to the stone and keep pushing to make sure that this industry stays afloat," he said.

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One Cable Beach sales ahead of schedule

July 22, 2015

Sales of luxury beachfront condos in the iconic $45 million One Cable Beach development are exceeding expectation, with 40 percent of the residences sold prior to the pouring of the foundation, the project's developer said.
"The response to the offering of One Cable Beach has exceeded our projection," said Jason Kinsale, president and CEO of Aristo Development, which is funding and building the seven-story, 69-unit, ultra-luxurious condominium complex on Cable Beach. "I have been told - and we are trying to confirm - that the success we have enjoyed so far is unprecedented for this stage of a development and may be setting a record, with 40 percent of a residential project sold before the foundation is poured."
The project, which broke ground quietly without fanfare or a formal ceremony, has been humming along with hundreds of thousands of dollars of heavy equipment preparing the site and working on infrastructure. A sales office is open daily on the property west of Melia Nassau Beach resort and less than a half mile east of Sandals Royal Bahamian on Cable Beach.
The success to date, Kinsale believes, is due largely to location - the last available acreage in the sought-after Cable Beach area directly on the waterfront.
"I drove around for one year searching for a suitable piece of property," he admitted. When the purchase was complete, an abandoned house had to be demolished and hauled away. But the linear footage and the high elevation made the site ideal for construction. "When you come out here and see the sparkling turquoise waters, it takes your breath away, even mine, and I am accustomed to developing properties. I am supposed to think of it as business but I can't help but feel a little emotional when I walk this property so I understand how people, especially those coming from the northern U.S., Canada and Europe, would be struck by its beauty and want to buy.
"We do hope that as the building rises from the ground we will see more Bahamian sales. We have had a lot of interest from Bahamians and we expect to turn some of that interest into concrete sales to people who are either buying for themselves as a residence or recognize the value for investment purposes. Every sale we make we hear words like 'I know this is a smart investment'."
If location is part of the attraction, there is no question that the impressive design adds appeal. The architecture features a wave-like exterior in sharp white with extensive free-form balconies. The single building consists of nearly 70 residences ranging in price from $555,000 for a one-bedroom to $3 million for the 3,900-square-foot, 3-bedroom penthouse facing the sea. Residences have ocean or garden views and the property includes a swimming pool, fitness center, security, storm-rated windows and oversized doors, high ceilings, and quality construction with the finest in finishing details.
Aristo, which is also developing the popular residential community The Balmoral in New Providence, now has nearly $100 million in projects under construction on the island.

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Athletics get underway for Team Bahamas

July 22, 2015

In the only final involving a Bahamian athlete on the opening day of the athletics competition at the CIBC Pan Am/Parapan Am Athletics Stadium in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Andros native Tamara Myers got her first taste of action at the Pan Am Games level, and ended up with a 10th place finish overall in the women's triple jump.
Myers had a best jump of 13.57 meters (m) - 44' 6-1/4" - which would have been a personal best performance for her, but it was slightly wind-aided. Her second best jump was legal, a mark of 13.22m (43' 4-1/2"), but it was off her season and personal best leap of 13.41m (44').
Colombia got two medals in the event, as World Champion won the gold with a leap of 15.08m (49' 5-3/4"), and her teammate Yosiry Urrutia captured the bronze with a season's best leap of 14.38m (47' 2-1/4"). Brazilian Keila Costa sandwiched the two for the silver medal, with a best leap of 14.50m (47' 7").
Co-national record holders in the women's 100m hurdles, Adanaca Brown and Devynne Charlton, didn't have their best performances of the season yesterday, and as a result, were left out of last night's final of that event. Brown was eighth in her semi-final heat, and 12th overall in 13.18 seconds. Charlton finished fifth in her heat, and was 13th overall, in 13.22 seconds. Charlton ran a new national record time of 13 seconds flat at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, in June, and Brown tied that national mark two weeks later at the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA)/Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) National Open Track and Field Championships in New Providence.
They were significantly off those season and personal best performances yesterday though.
In the men's 100m, Shavez Hart showed that he is back to form after a subpar run through the NCAA Championships, clocking 10.13 seconds to make it through to the semi-finals. Two-time National Champion Hart was third in his heat, and qualified for the semis with the eighth fastest time. Hart ran a modest 10.24 seconds in the semi-finals of the event at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships, and failed to make it through to the final. On Tuesday in Toronto, he was significantly better, although the race was slightly wind-aided.
The semi-finals of the men's 100m at the 17th Pan Am Games will be ran this evening, starting at 6:50 p.m. Hart will run out of lane seven in the second semi-final heat, set for 6:57 p.m. The final is set for later tonight, 8:50 p.m.
The other Bahamian in the men's 100m, Jonathan Farquharson, failed to make it out of the opening round heats. Farquharson finished eighth in his heat, and was 20th overall, in 10.48 seconds.
Bahamian Raymond Higgs was entered for the men's long jump, but was a no-show for the competition.
Once again, a number of Bahamians will be in action today. Lanece Clarke will run out of lane one in the first of two semi-final heats of the women's 400m at 10:30 a.m. The final is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. tomorrow. Just the top three runners in each semi-final heat and the next two fastest times will move on to the final.
In the men's version of that race, Ramon Miller will run out of lane three in heat one at 11:00 a.m. today, and LaToy Williams will run out of lane one in heat two at 11:08 a.m. Like the women, the top three runners in each semi-final heat and the next two fastest times will move on to the final, which will be held at 7:20 p.m. tomorrow.
In the men's 400m hurdles, national record holder Jeffery Gibson will run out lane four in the third of three semi-final heats at 12:36 p.m. today. The top two runners in each semi-final heat and the next two fastest times will move on to the final, which is scheduled for 5:40 p.m. tomorrow.
Also today, as mentioned earlier, Hart is scheduled to run in the semi-finals of the men's 100m. The final is set for later tonight.
A number of Bahamians will be in action tomorrow as the opening rounds and semi-finals of the men and women's 200m are scheduled to be held, the qualifying rounds of the women's long jump will take place, and the final of the men's 400m hurdles, and men and women's 400m will run.

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Captain Smith honored for service to Bimini Big Game Club Resort

July 22, 2015

ALICE TOWN, Bimini -- A 75-slip full service marina has long been considered the front door to the Bimini Big Game Club Resort, and dockmaster Robbie Smith has been the first to greet thousands of boaters at the docks over the last 27 years.
Captain Smith's professionalism and approach to his craft recently brought him to New Providence as a nominee in tourism category for the 2015 Bahamian Icon Awards program held at the Melia Nassau Beach Resort.
Celebrating greatness, the Bahamian Icon Awards recognize Bahamian citizens who have exemplified the best intentions of the Bahamian spirit through excellence and achievement.
Although he didn't receive the icon award for tourism, Captain Smith did receive a certificate of nomination along with tremendous support from his wife and family, co-workers and friends, and the Bimini community, who all celebrated his honor to be a national nominee.
"Robbie is one special person," commented Robier Escutary on the Bimini Big Game Club Resort & Marina Facebook site. "The times I have been to Bimini he has been very kind."
Captain Smith, certified by the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) as an official weigh master, presently serves as the Chief Counselor for the Bimini & Cat Cay District. His other community involvement duties include Parent Teacher Association (PTA) president of the primary school in Bimini and an Esteem Leading Knight of the Guiding Star Lodge #1374.
Captain Smith and his wife Enjoli are the parents of six and reside in Bimini.

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Minimum wage to increase 40 percent

July 22, 2015

Minister of Labour Shane Gibson announced in the House of Assembly today that the national minimum wage will increase from $150 per week to $210 per week, a 40 percent increase.
Gibson said the decision was made as a result of a recommendation from the National Tripartite Council.
Should both houses of Parliament approve a resolution, the increase would take effect August 15, 2015.
The last increase took effect on January 21, 2002.
"While we in the government would like to have seen it higher we have accepted the recommendation of the National Tripartite Council," Gibson said.
He said while some fear the increase would have a negative impact on the economy and on the job market, the increase in the minimum wage in other countries in the region has had the result of improving economic activity as people with more money usually spend more on goods and services.
Gibson also warned employers who withhold the increased pay from employees would be aggressively pursued and prosecuted.

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Proposed liquidators named

July 22, 2015

The government is proposing that three professionals from PricewaterhouseCoopers be appointed provisional liquidators for Baha Mar.
If approved by the court, Prince Rahming, Gowon Bowe and Garth Calow would oversee the affairs of the troubled resort project.
The revelation is made in an affidavit of Director of Legal Affairs Antoinette Bonamy.
The affidavit was made in support of the government's decision to file a winding up petition against Baha Mar.
As well as having operations in The Bahamas, PricewaterhouseCoopers is a global firm with extensive experience in dealing with complex restructuring assignments of this nature, the affidavit says.
The provisional liquidators have confirmed that they are willing and able to accept the proposed appointment, it adds.
Bonamy said in the affidavit, "In all the circumstances, I respectfully submit on behalf of the government that the respondents (the Baha Mar group) should be wound up, both on the basis that they are insolvent and unable to pay their debts as they fall due and/or on the basis that in all of the circumstances of the case it is just and equitable that they should be."
She added that the urgent need to get the project -- which is understood to be approximately 90 to 98 percent complete -- completed necessitates the need to appoint provisional liquidators to manage Baha Mar's affairs in such a way that will facilitate a resolution with the project's major stakeholders and creditors.
Bonamy said in the affidavit that none of the orders sought by the government would be inconsistent with Baha Mar's stated objective of restructuring and ultimately completing the project as expeditiously as possible. "Indeed, I submit that the orders sought would in fact optimize the prospects of achieving those objectives in an expeditious, convenient and appropriate manner," she said.
The attorney general filed the winding up petition last Thursday as a countermove to Baha Mar's filing of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. district of Delaware on June 29.
In a statement on Monday night, the government said it was still observing talks between Baha Mar and its contractor, China Construction America (CCA).
The government said if those talks progress and financing is agreed to complete Baha Mar, it would be an active participant in all-party talks "leading to an agreement that defines the terms of the construction and financing for the resumption, completion and opening of Baha Mar".

Preserve and maintain
Bonamy's affidavit says that on Friday, July 10, 2015, Baha Mar filed an application in Delaware Bankruptcy Court seeking U.S. court approval of a "preserve and maintain alternative".
The application was supported by a sworn declaration made by Baha Mar President Tom Dunlap.
In that declaration, Baha Mar explains that unless negotiations achieve immediate "meaningful progress" then Baha Mar proposes to "immediately downsize their operations to a minimum over approximately 40 to 60 days, which includes archiving a substantial portion of their current property and reducing their workforce to a skeletal staff to minimally maintain the resort assets until such time as construction can be completed and the property opened".
Bonamy stated, "In other words, the respondents (Baha Mar) have stated categorically that they intend to suspend the project indefinitely, unless the negotiations are successful (i.e. acceptable to them).
"The purpose of the 'preserve and maintain alternative' was therefore to seek U.S. court approval for the payment of incentives of up to $4.6 million for 99 employees in order to facilitate that suspension.
"Whether or not this was intended as a pre-negotiation posturing by the respondents, the government's position is clear; given the critical importance of the project to The Bahamas, it will not countenance indefinite delays of the kind proposed by the respondents."
The parties proceeded to negotiations in Beijing last week after the Dunlap declaration was filed.
Prime Minister Perry Christie reported that those talks ended without agreement.
Baha Mar has insisted it is still negotiating with its Chinese partners.
Bonamy also noted in the affidavit that no agreement was reached last week.
She said, "In light of the Dunlap declaration and for the reasons set out in this affidavit, the government makes this winding up and appointment application."
Bonamy noted that the government intended to argue that Baha Mar's application to the Bahamas Supreme Court for recognition of its Chapter 11 filing was "fundamentally unsound".
Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez argued this point when the parties returned to court on Monday.
Justice Ian Winder is set to rule today on Baha Mar's recognition application.
"The winding up and appointment application has been made in order to ensure that the project is completed and trading commenced with minimum delay and disruption," Bonamy said in the affidavit.
"Based on information available to me, the three major stakeholders in this case, namely the government, the bank and the contractor, all agree that the project needs to be completed as quickly as possible and the resort opened for business as a matter of urgency.
"On the other hand, the respondents are actively seeking, via the Dunlap declaration, to implement a strategy whereby the project is suspended indefinitely, whilst [Baha Mar] seeks new financing."
Justice Winder is set to hear the winding up matter on July 31.
In a national address on Thursday, Prime Minister Perry Christie said, "These compulsory or involuntary winding up proceedings are designed to work in very similar terms as a Chapter 11 but with the stark difference that they will be controlled by provisional liquidators under the supervision of the Bahamian courts rather than being controlled by [Baha Mar CEO Sarkis] Izmirlian.
"These liquidators, if appointed by the court, will be neutral and impartial professionals of the highest quality and of impeccable credentials."

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Vasyli granted 200K bail Crown to appeal

July 22, 2015

Accused murderer Donna Vasyli returned to the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services on Tuesday afternoon as a result of the Crown's intention to appeal a judge's decision to grant her $200,000 bail ahead of her trial.
Her lawyer, Elliot Lockhart, QC, and her children urged her to remain strong as she was led back to a holding cell to await transport to the prison.
Prosecutors say Vasyli stabbed her husband, well-known Australian podiatrist Phillip Vasyli, in the neck at their home in the exclusive Old Fort Bay community on March 24.
She was charged with his murder on March 30.
Senior Justice Stephen Isaacs, who has heard two previous bail applications for Vasyli, granted $200,000 bail with two sureties on the condition that she reports to the Lyford Cay Police Station on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays before 6 p.m., surrenders her passport to the court, resides at Ocean Drive in Old Fort Bay for the duration of her trial and wears an ankle bracelet.
Justice Bernard Turner delivered the decision for Isaacs, who is ill.
Vasyli's latest bail application was made because of her failing health.
In his ruling, Isaacs noted a steady rise in Vasyli's blood pressure.
On April 15, it was 100/77 and on June 12, it was 182/116.
He said, "Although the respondent has sworn generally that the applicant's high blood pressure and hypothyroidism can be controlled at the Princess Margaret Hospital, the blood pressure progression seems to reveal the opposite.
"I am unable to take any firm view of the progression of the applicant's hypothyroidism, save as to note that the appellant seems to have developed small nodules in her neck, which I expect are not naturally occurring."
Isaacs said, "Whether she appears for her trial may have seemed a difficult question on her first or second bail hearing, days and weeks after her arrest respectively, but there is much more gravamen to the applicant's assertion that she will, including the fact that she has family, two homes and a business in The Bahamas.
"Additionally, as her case has taken on a certain notoriety it appears in her home country of Australia, as well as in America, I expect as she has a son that lives in Florida, those countries I assume would not welcome her before her trial is disposed of; having no antecedents there is no reason to think that she will be a danger to society while at large."
Isaacs also observed that Vasyli had become "much thinner" than when he first saw her.
He said, "It would be a blight on our prosecutorial system were she reduced to a chronic state of ill health. Death while in custody always results in a national spectacle; in this case it would result in an international one."
Turner will rule at 3 p.m. today on whether the notice of an intention to appeal serves as an automatic suspension of bail and whether the provision of the Bail Act is constitutional.
Lockhart argued that Vasyli's release ahead of the hearing of the appeal "would not render the appeal nugatory".
He said she would technically remain in custody as she would be under constant surveillance by the electionic monitoring center.
Lockhart said the only difference was that she would be sleeping at Old Fort Bay, rather than on concrete at the prison.
Nail Brathwaite, the prosecutor, said that it was a mandatory provision of the Bail Act that bail is suspended until the determination of an appeal.

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Man shot dead following card game

July 22, 2015

A man was shot dead on Hay Street on Monday night following a card game, police reported.
Chief Superintendent Paul Rolle said officers responding to reports of gunshots found a 19-year-old in the street with gunshot injuries to "his face".
He said based on preliminary reports the man was gambling with six other people in the hallway of an apartment complex around 10 p.m.
"We are not certain whether the gambling game is [related] to his death or something else, but we appeal to those people who were a part of the game to reach out to us and help us to advance this investigation."
The shooting marks the third murder in a week and the eighth murder for the month.
It is the 83rd murder for 2015.
This time last year there were 65 murders.
This means there has been a 27.69 percent increase in murders this year.
In recent months, police have expressed concern about the high number of murders and have called on the Bahamian public to get more involved in the crime fight.
"We cannot do this alone," Chief Superintendent Clayton Fernander said last week.
"We're asking for people to reach out to us. We will hold your information close to our chests.
"Reach out, let's hold hands and make this country a safer place."
Earlier this month, Minister of National Security Dr. Bernard Nottage announced that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) approved a $20 million loan to the government to help fund the fight against crime.
He said access to the funds is the "most important event" in the crime fight in recent times.
Nottage said together with the IDB, the government came up with several crime-fighting strategies that include targeting at-risk youth, strengthening the justice system and improving reintegration programs.
While police statistics have pointed to a reduction in crime overall over last year, The Bahamas appears on pace to exceed the record murder count in 2011 of 127.
This same time in 2011, there were 76 murders.

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CCA defends position in affidavit

July 22, 2015

China Construction America (Bahamas) has charged that Baha Mar's assertion that CCA is the reason the multi-billion-dollar resort was delayed twice is "erroneous and inconsistent" with the facts.
In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court of The Bahamas on July 16, CCA Bahamas Vice President Jun Li defended CCA against "material inaccuracies and misstatements".
"Further, self-serving characterization of CCA Bahamas as being primarily responsible for the delay of the completion of the project is erroneous and inconsistent with the factual history of the dealing between the parties in connection with the contract," Jun wrote.
"CCA Bahamas has not had sufficient time to respond to all of the matters, claims, and allegations made against it in the various affidavits filed on behalf of the applicants.
"Going forward, CCA Bahamas intends to more fully respond to such matters."
CCA Bahamas is Baha Mar's main contractor.
Baha Mar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. district of Delaware on June 29. It is seeking to have those proceedings recognized in The Bahamas so as to gain creditor protection and access to much needed funds.
A Bahamian Supreme Court justice is expected to decide today whether to recognize the Chapter 11 proceedings.
In an affidavit filed on July 7, Baha Mar President Tom Dunlap said he met with Jun on multiple occasions in early 2015 and "at none of the meetings did the president inform me that CCA would not complete the project on time".
Baha Mar was originally scheduled to open in December 2014 and later on March 27, 2015.
Dunlap accused CCA of a litany of failures, including missing two opening dates and breaching its obligations.
But Jun wrote that CCA has claims against Baha Mar exceeding $100 million.
"CCA Bahamas has over 400 Chinese workers in The Bahamas who are being paid and who are currently unable to work on the project," he said.
"As a result of the bankruptcy filings, there is currently a stay preventing CCA Bahamas from commencing proceedings in The Bahamas, and elsewhere, against BML (Baha Mar Ltd.) with regard to matters arising in this jurisdiction under the contract.
"Those matters directly relate to The Bahamas and are substantially connected to this jurisdiction."
CCA claims that Baha Mar has not paid it since February and it is owed approximately $76.6 million in relation to that work.
Jun wrote that CCA was locked out of its offices.
Dunlap has said that because of its missed March opening date, Baha Mar suffered devastating losses.
"As a result, the applicants were forced to cancel months worth of room reservations and group meeting events and provide numerous customers with vouchers, refunds and in certain cases were required to find customers suitable accommodations elsewhere, all at a cost in excess of $6 million," Dunlap wrote in his affidavit.
"The applicants suffered many other damages as well, including significant harm to the Baha Mar name and reputation.
"The applicants also incurred substantial sunk costs that they must expend once again to open the project.
"In short, the missed opening date of March 27, 2015 was devastating for the applicants."
On Monday, CCA filed a motion in Delaware seeking to have Baha Mar's Chapter 11 proceedings dismissed.
"In their attempt to safeguard their position as owners of the project, the debtors have sacrificed the interests of their creditors, the project, the Bahamian people and all other parties in interest," the motion read.
"Indeed, the debtors' own pleadings suggest that if the debtors were permitted to continue their insolvency proceedings in the United States, the completion of the project will be substantially delayed and the ultimate outcome of the project will be uncertain."
CCA is represented in The Bahamas by Sean Moree.

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Baha Mar has 'preserve and maintain' alternative

July 22, 2015

If Baha Mar is unsuccessful in its application to gain Bahamian court recognition of Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings currently underway, the company is prepared to initiate a "preserve and maintain alternative".
Baha Mar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware on June 29.
It is seeking to have those proceedings recognized in The Bahamas so as to gain creditor protection and access to much needed funds.
A Bahamian Supreme Court justice is expected to decide today whether to recognize the Chapter 11 proceedings.
In a sworn affidavit filed on July 7, Baha Mar President Tom Dunlap said if meaningful progress is not made, either in negotiations with its Chinese lender or the Chapter 11 proceedings, it would have no choice but to lay off much of its workforce and wind down its operations.
In that event, the company would seek to preserve and maintain its assets while alternatives are explored (the preserve and maintain alternative)," Dunlap said.
"Some employees will be asked to stay on to help get assets in a place where they can be preserved; others would be asked to stay on longer to maintain the assets."
Dunlap said the process would be in two phases, the first of which will last 45 to 60 days.
That would include "securing and archiving the casino assets as directed by the Bahamas Gaming Board, consolidating and storing the contents of the approximately 90 remaining containers of FFE (furniture, fixtures, equipment) and OSE (operating supplies equipment) and the archiving of critical construction related documentation and many more similar activities".
The second phase "is much longer in duration and is the monitoring of the assets".
"The primary focus is on fire watch and security patrols; asset inventory monitoring; continued surveillance; very basic grounds and pool maintenance; very routine golf course agronomy; very basic common area maintenance and similar longer term asset management tasks," Dunlap said.
This alternative though, did not factor in the government's winding-up petition, which was filed last Thursday.
The government is seeking the appointment of a provisional liquidator to manage Baha Mar's affairs with a view to getting the stalled project completed and operational.
Supreme Court Justice Winder will hear the winding up petition on July 31.

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Toddler's injuries no accident, pathologist says

July 22, 2015

The injuries that killed two-year-old Teon Morley were inflicted by another person, the pathologist who performed the autopsy testified on Tuesday.
Dr. Caryn Sands said the injuries to the toddler's head, torso and extremities were "consistent with non-accidental death".
Sands said that Teon died from hemorrhaging in the brain and stomach caused by blunt force trauma.
In addition to external bruises, Teon's spleen was lacerated, his left lung was bruised and there was hemorrhaging around his spleen.
Trevor Carey, who was dating the little boy's mother, Crystal Forbes, is on trial for his murder that occurred on August 16, 2013 at an apartment on Allen Drive.
Shown a photograph of a dented frying pan collected by police, Darell Taylor, the prosecutor, asked if it could have caused the fatal injuries.
Sands said, "This is a blunt object. It is possible."
Teon's seven-year-old brother has testified that he saw Carey hit his brother on the hand with a frying pan. The pathologist observed bruises to both of the child's hands.
Sands said she did not believe that a fall from a bed could have caused the injuries observed during the autopsy as "the distribution of these injuries involved multiple body sites".
The court has heard in earlier testimony that Teon fell from a bed on the date in question.
His lawyer, Lessiah Rolle, had suggested that this fall or an allergic reaction could have caused his death.
However, Sands did not agree.
Sands also observed healing abrasions to the buttocks, right forearm and leg.
The pathologist was unable to say "with certainty" if those healing injuries were non-accidental.
The trial continues today before Justice Cheryl Grant-Bethell.

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PAC report on Urban Renewal expected in September

July 22, 2015

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman Hubert Chipman said yesterday he expects the committee to complete its investigation into Urban Renewal next month and table its report in the House of Assembly before September.
"We hope to conclude the report in early August and table our report," Chipman told The Nassau Guardian.
"I think the committee needs to meet prior to the summons going out, so we can all agree on a date that we can bring the co-chairs and whoever else should come before the committee."
Last week, Urban Renewal Commission (URC) Co-Chair Algernon Allen said he is eager to appear before the PAC to testify about the Urban Renewal Programme now that the auditor general's report on that program has been tabled in the House of Assembly.
Prime Minister Perry Christie tabled the report last Wednesday.
"We at all times were willing to appear before the PAC," Allen said.
"Now that this report has been laid we are eager to appear before the PAC because Urban Renewal is a wonderful story."
Allen and Co-Chair Cynthia "Mother" Pratt had refused to appear before the PAC until the report was tabled.
The PAC is using the report in its investigation into Urban Renewal.
According to the report, leaked to The Nassau Guardian in April, Auditor General Terrance Bastian found that there was a lack of accountability, transparency and due diligence in the management of the URC's Small Home Repairs (SHR) program, its execution and the quality of work done.
He also found that 11 contractors were paid $171,000 for work that was either incomplete or never done.
The revelation set off a firestorm around the program.
House Speaker Dr. Kendal Major had directed the PAC to "stay its hand" in relation to any investigation surrounding the auditor general's report.
He ruled that because the report had not been tabled in the House, the PAC could not take "cognizance of the report".
He determined that it was up to the House to decide whether it wished to cause the report to be tabled.
Major made his decision after an opinion from the Office of the Attorney General said the PAC's investigation into Urban Renewal was "legally improper".
A copy of the opinion was given to Major on April 22.
The opinion said the course of action taken by the PAC in summoning the Urban Renewal co-chairs, after they refused to appear before the PAC, was legally improper because the auditor general's report had not been laid before the House.
Chipman intends to summon both co-chairs in early August.

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Gibson says govt is working to help Baha Mar workers

July 22, 2015

Labour Minister Shane Gibson said yesterday that everything the government is doing in relation to the Baha Mar matter is for the protection of the Bahamians who work at the $3.5 billion development.
Gibson was responding to Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis who said the opposition will be watching carefully to see what measures the government will take to protect the employment of Baha Mar workers and to provide interim relief.
"He obviously does not have anything to say that would bring value to the situation, so he said what he knows is happening already," Gibson said referring to Minnis.
In a national address on Sunday night, Minnis said, "We, the opposition Free National Movement, urge the prime minister to mobilize the resources of our government, to ensure that the children of employees of Baha Mar are not negatively impacted in their ability to enroll in and attend school.
"The Ministry of Education, the Department of Social Services and all available government resources ought to be involved in protecting the future of our children."
But Gibson charged that the government has already been doing that.
"Was he sleeping? Can't he see what the government is doing," the minister said. "He must be the only one in The Bahamas asking for what everyone sees we are doing."
Gibson noted that the government funded Baha Mar's $7.5 million payroll for the month of July.
"If the salaries are being paid, what else is necessary?" he asked.
While Gibson would not indicate whether the government intends pay the salaries of the 2,400 Bahamians at Baha Mar next month, The Guardian understands that the matter is under consideration.
Baha Mar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States on June 29 and sent most of its staff home.
In a countermove, the government of The Bahamas on Thursday filed a petition for the winding up of Baha Mar on the grounds that it is owed more than $58 million by the developer.
However, the government said on Monday night it will observe talks between Baha Mar and its contractor, China Construction America (CCA), as the parties try to reach an agreement to get the Cable Beach project completed.
"...We note that Baha Mar has committed to continue negotiating [with] China Construction to secure an agreement on the completion and opening of Baha Mar," the statement said.
"The government and EXIM Bank will be observers in those meetings. Should Baha Mar and China Construction [America] agree, they will then negotiate with EXIM Bank the financial terms required to support their agreement.
"The government of The Bahamas will also be an observer in these negotiations.
"Once financial terms have been agreed, we anticipate that all-party talks -- in which the government of The Bahamas will be an active participant -- can reconvene, leading to an agreement that defines the terms of the construction and financing for the resumption, completion and opening of Baha Mar."
The government said the winding-up exercise was "precautionary".
"The government's objective remains first and foremost to ensure the opening of Baha Mar under private ownership and operation," the statement said.
"The role of the provisional liquidator would be to oversee the restructuring and opening of Baha Mar under the supervision of the court, should the parties be unable to negotiate an agreement to complete and open Baha Mar."
The Christie administration urged Baha Mar, China Construction and EXIM Bank to secure an agreement to complete and open the resort.

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Cash questions govt's handling of Baha Mar crisis

July 22, 2015

When Prime Minister Perry Christie finished his national address on Thursday evening, many Bahamians were stunned, saddened and filled with great feelings of sadness and doubt, according to former Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Darron Cash.
"Then on Friday, following the press release from Baha Mar, Bahamians were filled with even more doubts," said Cash, referring to Baha Mar's statement on Friday accusing the prime minister of being misleading in his national address.
"Bahamians want to trust their government and believe what its leaders say. Regrettably, Mr. Christie has such a wide trust deficit, that his own people have come to accept that almost everything he says is subject to proof. That is a national problem at a time of crisis."
Cash said, "In bringing Baha Mar to completion we have been pulling hard for Prime Minister Perry Christie. Despite our prayers and hopes, Prime Minister Christie has let us down.
"Quite frankly he has failed us. By his own statements, the prime minister was asked to 'mediate' the discussions with a view to getting the parties to 'agree on a way forward'.
"We had our doubts but as Bahamians we were prayerfully pulling for him to succeed. At several key times he gave the Bahamian people false hope by suggesting that a positive outcome was coming. That was never to be."
Referring to the government filing of a winding up petition against Baha Mar, Cash said, "We have to wonder whether the government action announced by the prime minister was not the result he wanted all along.
"Despite being asked to mediate the talks, Mr. Christie sent the AG to do a PM's job. He outsourced the big job that the nation needed him to do," Cash said.
"The fact that the prime minister engaged in open warfare with (Baha Mar CEO) Sarkis Izmirlian suggests that the PM wanted to wrestle control of the project away from the man who gave it life and brought it to within 97 percent of completion.
"The prime minister and his ministers had to have known that open warfare with Mr. Izmirlian would have given the other parties around the table the distinct impression that the Christie government did not want them to make a deal.
"Additionally, one has to imagine that if the prime minister wanted a deal he would have been in China."
Cash was referring to talks in Beijing last week. Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson led the Bahamian delegation.
Cash added, "Recently, the big issue for this government appears to be sovereignty. The bigger issue is whether the end result of the prime minister's consistent efforts to put his finger on the scale and tilt this decision away from Sarkis Izmirlian will be that Baha Mar ends up in the hands of an entity that is controlled by a foreign government. That certainly appears to be what the prime minister wanted all along. Time will tell.
"If the prime minister thinks that working with the Delaware court was a threat to national sovereignty, he is in for a rude awakening if Baha Mar ends up in the hands of an entity controlled by a foreign government."
Baha Mar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware on June 29. It is trying to get a Bahamian judge to approve the U.S. court orders.
Justice Ian Winder will make a decision on the matter today.
In his statement, Cash listed questions he said the government should answer:
1. Is the government of The Bahamas prepared to state unequivocally at this stage that it will not permit Baha Mar to fall under the direct or indirect control of an agency of a foreign government?
2. Should the Bahamian people believe the PM's words from Thursday or believe what he will say in another day or two? Today as to Baha Mar the PM is "completely confident." When the PM finished speaking on his national address his closing words were good night but what I heard was "wolf wolf". This time most people are not getting excited.
3. The PM said this development "must open". And so it begs the question of just how desperate our government has become. Is the government more desperate for Baha Mar to open than the developers? The contractor can walk away, albeit wounded, and so too can the developer, with pennies on the dollar and wounded pride. Does the government of The Bahamas now think The Bahamas has the most to lose? And in that regard, are they so eager that they are prepared to give away substantially more concessions in order to get the project completed and open?
4. When the AG was in China, did she put any additional incentives or concessions on the table as a means of inducing the warring parties to find common ground?
5. Government ministers have argued that this project is too big to fail. Has the government considered whether it is also too big and too expensive to succeed? As the government considers creative approaches to resolve the differences, have they done any analysis of the new and true financial models through which any of the equity stakeholders will be able to generate meaningful financial returns?
6. Has the government considered the possibility that Baha Mar could be the new "white elephant" that opens in 2015 or 2016 but closes in four years because no one could generate a dime in profits? Consequently, in their "negotiations," have they thought of ways to protect Bahamian workers, BEC, and the Public Treasury?
7. Where is the prime minister and why is he not hosting an extensive press conference where he sits down, provides explanations and answers all the burning questions?
9. What roles are the ministers of investments, tourism, works, and foreign affairs playing in what should be a well coordinated national response with international implications?

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Bahamas consulate in Atlanta hosts independence celebrations

July 22, 2015

ATLANTA, Georgia - A family fun day picnic, Androsia-themed fashion show, Junkanoo rush-out, church service and cocktail reception were the highlights of this year's 42nd Bahamas Independence Celebrations hosted by the Bahamas Consul General's Office in Atlanta. Joining the festivities this year was Tim Whaddell of Popeye's Louisiana Chicken, who came on board as a partner to treat over 500 attendees of the picnic.
Special guest performer was Bahamian artist Veronica Bishop, one of this year's Independence Day music and culture award recipients.
Representatives from the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism's Atlanta Office and Bahamas in Georgia Association also spearheaded some of the activities.
"Every year, we are striving to connect with as many Bahamians in the area as possible to a 'common loftier goal' as we sing our national anthem," said Consul General Randy E. Rolle. "We are a proud people and we come from the best island nation in the world and that is something we want to invoke within our Bahamians abroad."
Rolle added that moments like this are "not just about enjoying our delicious cuisine or dancing to our music, but for us as a people to come together to see how far we have come and to appreciate those who have gone before us, whose shoulders we stand on, and why we celebrate independence".
"We are grateful for the many men and women who today still tell the story of how we came to be an independent nation," said Rolle. "Living abroad, we want to remind our younger generation to not simply identify as having Bahamian heritage but to be proud members of our diaspora who share a rich heritage, culture and history of being from one of the top nations in the region."
The Bahamas Consulate General's Office hosted an Independence 'Toast to the Nation' cocktail reception at the consul general's residence on Friday before the Popeye's partnered Family Fun Day on Saturday, which featured Junkanoo, an Androsia fashion show, Bahamian dishes, activities and Bahamian artist Veronica Bishop. The celebration concluded on Sunday with a church service at St Paul's Episcopal Church.
"Veronica Bishop was a real treat," said Rolle. "Not only is she a true musician, but she is an artist who represents our heritage. Through her songs, she translates stories that resonate with Bahamian culture and her music is very relatable to Bahamian life. She was very well received."
The consul general thanked "all the Bahamians and friends of The Bahamas who donated, prepared food, set up, participated and attended this event".
"I was most pleased with seeing everyone come together as we strive to make this one of the most anticipated summer events in the Atlanta area," Rolle said.

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Judge rejects Baha Mar's application

July 22, 2015

Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder this morning rejected Baha Mar's application seeking approval for recognition in The Bahamas of Chapter 11 bankruptcy orders issued by a judge in the U.S. district of Delaware.
Winder committed to putting his reasons in writing in two weeks.
Baha Mar attorney Roy Sweeting said he was disappointed by the decision.
The ruling is a significant loss for Baha Mar, which filed for Chapter 11 protection on June 29, throwing the Cable Beach project into a tailspin.
Baha Mar has said -- and the government has acknowledged -- that the developer is in talks with its general contractor, China Construction America (CCA) seeking to reach an agreement to complete the project.
Baha Mar is reportedly 98 per cent complete.
On Monday, Sweeting argued that there were many good reasons for the Bahamian court to recognize the Chapter 11 proceedings in the United States.
He said the court has common law grounds to grant the motion.
Sweeting said while the circumstances are unique nothing in the facts presented prevented the court from providing assistance.
He said on Monday it is his client's view that the Chapter 11 filing in Delaware was "the best of a bad range of options available to them".
Winder will also consider the government's winding up petition filed last Thursday. The date for that hearing is July 31.
The government says Baha Mar owes it nearly $59 million.
On Monday, it said it was observing Baha Mar's talks with its contractor and should they reach an agreement, Baha Mar would negotiate with China Export-Import Bank to try to arrange financing needed to complete the project.
The government has said the winding up petition is a "precautionary" measure.
It is seeking the appointment of provisional liquidators from PricewaterhouseCoopers.Last week, Prime Minister Perry Christie said the liquidators would oversee the affairs of Baha Mar and help move it to a speedy completion.
More than 2,000 jobs held by Bahamians hang in the balance as the dispute drags on.

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Minister of youth conducts summer camps tour

July 22, 2015

Every summer in July, youngsters across New Providence and in Family Islands are offered the chance to experience a few weeks of all dimensions of arts, crafts, and sporting activity sponsored by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. They even have the choice of summer break booster science opportunities.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Dr. Daniel Johnson on Wednesday, July 15, took members of the press on a tour of some of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture's summer camps located at schools and parks throughout the capital. He also showed a food handler's course conducted at St. Gregory's Anglican Church.
Johnson noted camps at the parks such as softball, judo, boxing, soccer, tennis and basketball are actually held year-round to provide a possible career choice for participants, and that they are "coordinated by professionals in their fields".
The National Summer Youth Programme spans the month of July, and annually engages hundreds of young people.

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