What has gone wrong with the multi-million dollar Shrimp project that was earmarked for the parish of St. Mark?
THE NEW TODAY is forced to ask the question in light of documents circulating from one Leo Ford whose address is Panama City in Panama in which the gentleman is claiming $2.4 million from the Keith Mitchell-led ruling New National Party (NNP) government in outstanding payment for consultancy work done on the project.
Grenadians may recall that there was an impressive launch for the Shrimp project by the newly created Grenada Sustainable Aquaculture Ltd a few days before the March 13, 2018 general election which was attended by among others Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, MP for the area, Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen and the Man in charge of Fisheries, St. John MP, Alvin Da Breo.
In recent weeks, the Prime Minister hinted that an investigation will be carried out into the failed Shrimp project since monies were collected and that help is being sought regionally and internationally to get to the bottom of the issue.
There are unconfirmed reports that about $15 million dollars were collected for the St. Mark Shrimp project from about 50 to 55 persons who contributed monies in exchange for obtaining a Grenada passport through the Citizenship By Investment (CBI) scheme.
If correct, where was this money deposited and who had control and oversight over it? Did anyone get passports from this so far failed project?
THE NEW TODAY was made aware of the involvement of one Soren Dawody as the Founder and Executive Director of GSA and Manfred Soeffing as the Operational Manager to get the project off the ground.
Absolutely nothing is now being heard by Mr. Dawody and no one knows if he is still associated with the project.
However, what is making the rounds is the following demand letter, dated January 21, 2019 from one Leo Ford that is addressed to the newly installed CEO of the local agency involved in spearheading the sale of our passports:
Mr. Thomas Anthony
Chief Executive Officer
Dear Mr. Anthony,
Letter of demand – outstanding payment
I am writing in reference to the Consultancy Services Agreement regarding Grenada Sustainable Aquaculture Ltd. dtd 1 Feb 16 and payment not being received. This lack of payment is due to the actions of the Government of Grenada and its Agents.
I demand full payment of the outstanding amount within 15 days from the date of this letter – February 4, 2019. The amount due is $2,450,000 USD.
Alternatively, and without prejudice to my rights for full recovery of the debt, I am prepared to:
*Accept the amount of $ 1,450,000 as full and final settlement of the debt if paid within 7 days from the date of this letter.
*Accept instalments of $100,000 per month until the debt is fully paid, the first installment to be paid on January 30, 2019 and thereafter on the first working day of every month until the debt is fully paid.
If this matter is not resolved by the time specified above, I reserve the right to commence legal proceedings to recover the debt listed above, including the additional debt for the duration (December 31, 2025) of the Consultancy Services Agreement, without further notice to you and this letter may be tendered in court as evidence of your failure to pay.
Legal action may result in you having to pay legal costs, damages and interest and could impact on the Government of Grenada’s credit rating.
Should you wish to contact me, please use firstname.lastname@example.org.
cc: Darshan Ramdhani, Attorney General
*Annette Henry, Registrar
*Alana Twum-Barimah, Registrar (AG)
* Ronald Theodore
* Denis Antoine
* E. Angus Friday
* Oleg Firer
This is quite an astonishing letter that was also sent to the attention of four persons who sit in the Grenada Cabinet and three of our Ambassadors including the infamous Oleg Firer, who is assigned to Russia but is allegedly based in Miami in the United States and not Moscow or some other city in Europe.
The NNP had been promoting the project as a major game changer in the lives of the people of St Mark which is known to be one of the most depressed on the island in terms of employment opportunities.
The Government Information Service (GIS) said among other things back in 2017: “Dubbed The Zero-Water Exchange Sustainable Organic Shrimp Farm, the project will specialise in the production of shrimp in a socially and environmentally-friendly manner, that is, free of anti-biotics, chemical additives and enzymes.
“High-tech, high-quality shrimp production will occur under the enclosed Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) that will eliminate problems caused by elements such as the weather and various forms of diseases.
“Manfred Soeffing, GSA’s Operational Manager says there are many opportunities available to Grenadians, as employment will be drawn from the local community, and persons will be trained in this specialized technology.
“We intend to employ, locally, as many persons as possible,” says Mr. Soeffing. “With the auspices of our chief scientist, we will train workers to run this operation, which will employ new and revolutionary technologies for raising shrimp. Some of the employees, by virtue of qualifications, will have an opportunity to secure a scholarship, attend university and attain further qualification in the subject field.”
“Parliamentary Representative for St. Mark, Hon. Clarice Modeste-Curwen expressed her excitement over the project, stating that the parish had been praying for a break like this for a long time. Now there is rejoicing.
“We have been waiting for something like that,” Hon. Modeste-Curwen said. “The Scripture says, ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles’. Our wait has paid off. The strength of people of St. Mark, our strength, is being renewed by this project that is being launched today,” said the MP and Minister for Tourism.
“Min. Modeste-Curwen considers the project to be a divine intervention because of the job opportunities that will come to St. Mark. “I was told that we would start out with two plants for shrimp production, and I have been assured that each one would employ about 75 people,” she stated to applause.
“Imagine, with a small population, employing 150 people. It was music to my ears to hear that most of the labour would come from St. Mark.”
GSA says the project will be a model for the Caribbean and the rest of the world, and – due to the technology used, and quality of water in St. Mark – will produce a sweeter shrimp that will be in high demand in countries such as United States and Canada. The company plans to build and operate one complete barn that it expects to have up and running by year end. Construction of additional barns is planned for 2018”.
THE NEW TODAY has an uneasy feeling that the so-called Shrimp project earmarked for St. Mark’s was another sham in a similar manner in which those involved in the failed First International Bank of Grenada (FIBG) and the infamous Van Brink were allowed to operate and pilfer monies from depositors during the 1995-2003 period.
A serious forensic investigation into the millions allegedly collected by those behind the Shrimp project might give some kind of lead into whether some of the monies were not actually used to finance the 2018 election campaign of the ruling party.
The blame game and finger pointing have already started with one senior minister telling a party supporter that the Mitchell administration had to run from GSA as one of the major personnel was found out to be a major player in the business of money laundering.
This newspaper is fearful that the so-called investigation that was alluded to by PM Mitchell will end up similar to the Cheltenham Briefcase inquiry in which nothing happened and the main players will never take to the stand to give any evidence about the allegedly missing millions of dollars.