PLP hits back over $800,000 loan to Blakey

The Progressive Labour Party branded attacks over a loan to a United States music promoter a “desperate” election tactic.

A party spokeswoman said Anthony Blakey, who disappeared after taking a $800,000 loan in April 2018 to set up a music studio at Dockyard, was previously involved with entertainment at the America’s Cup.

The spokeswoman said: “If this company was so disreputable, with no connection to Bermuda and no experience in the country, as the One Bermuda Alliance wants Bermudians to believe, then why did their America’s Cup promotional authority trust him with a contract to bring Kes the Band to Bermuda?

“How much was he paid? Where are the details of the contract?”

Kes the Band, a soca group from Trinidad & Tobago, played the main stage in the America’s Cup Village in June 2017.

The Royal Gazette has asked the PLP to clarify which AC authority it is referring to — the Bermuda Government-controlled ACBDA or the America’s Cup Event Authority — but has not yet received a response.

The spokeswoman said Savvy Entertainment, the company involved with the deal, had also been involved with the Annual Bermuda Fashion Festival and received $235,000 from the Corporation of Hamilton in 2019.

She added: “For the OBA to recycle the loan terms which were made public 16 months ago shows how desperate their campaign has become.

“David Burt, the PLP party leader, has laid out the facts of this situation and steps have been taken to recover the funds and prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

“It is clear that the combined opposition are so desperate to create a scandal, they will do and say anything to stop the PLP.”

An OBA spokesman responded: “It is laughable that the Burt administration tries to deflect from the missing $800,000 with this nonsense.

“That they try desperately to somehow, possibly, maybe, but don’t actually link the OBA to this shows that they know they are in trouble over this missing money and that it will lose them votes. I suggest that they contact former members of the ACEA for any more comments. I will not be drawn further into their absurd deflection tactics.”

A Corporation of Hamilton spokeswoman confirmed that Savvy Entertainment was awarded a contract for the 2019 Fashion Festival as they were the sole bidder in an RFP process.

The spokeswoman said: “There was one additional submission during the Request For Interest process but that submission was retracted.

“Savvy’s obligation was to organise, manage and execute the 2019 Fashion Festival, the Festival’s 10th anniversary.

“While it is not the City’s intent to comment on the performance of its vendors, we can confirm that Savvy delivered a weeklong fashion event for the Bermuda community.”

She added that there were no pending contracts with the company.

Lindsay Simmons, the PLP candidate for Devonshire South Central, accused the OBA of using “their friends in the media to launch attacks during the week of the election”.

She added: “We all know this week there will be some type of old news that is dressed up as new and written with sensational headlines to make the Bermuda PLP and the PLP leader look bad.

“Bermuda, please don’t fall for any of these kinds of sensationalism by Craig Cannonier and the OBA.”

Mr Burt, the Premier, apologised last week for the $800,000 government loan to Mr Blakey and Danilee Trott, a Bermudian event planner who worked for Savvy.

The loan agreement stated that the money would be used to set up a “top level” recording studio for Bermudian and international artists and ship recording equipment to Bermuda. But a civil action filed at the Supreme Court in June last year against Mr Blakey and Ms Trott said they had defaulted on $778,204 of the loan.

Ms Trott said that she did not hold any shares in Savvy and did not receive any of the loan funds.

Lawyers for the Government have failed to find Mr Blakey to serve him with a legal demand to return the taxpayer funds with interest.

Antoine Raynor, an independent candidate in the upcoming General Election, said yesterday that he had approached Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, about potentially using the Cross Island site shortly after the 2017 election.

Mr Raynor said that he was told by Colonel Burch — one of his opponents in Warwick North Central — that a deal had already been agreed with Savvy Entertainment.

He said: “I’m still not sure if there was an RFP published or if they advertised it, but I do know that when I asked about the land it had been given to them.

“Colonel Burch told me it was because they had done a lot in the community or they planned to do a lot in the community. I remember he then said ‘they didn’t come to just take money’.”

Mr Raynor said he was disappointed by the decision — and surprised when it was revealed the deal involved an $800,000 loan.

He said local artists, promoters and producers had asked multiple administrations for buy-in for the work they do in the community with little success.

Mr Raynor said he had personally looked to the Government for $25,000 to $50,000 to refurbish a recording studio so it could be used by young Bermudians, but was told the money was not available.

He said: “On that level it was really disappointing.

“It feels like Bermudians are always getting the short end of the stick in termws of support from their own Government.”

Mr Raynor added that while he is running against Colonel Burch, he does not hold any grudge against the minister over the incident.

He said: “I’m mature enough to understand the way the political system works within a party. I understand that in the case of a lot of issues he likely has had to toe the party line and maybe isn’t free to do all the things he had in mind to do.

“My decision to run doesn’t have anything to do with Colonel Burch. It really has to do with my community and what I’m looking to bring to the table for my community.”

In addition to Mr Raynor and Colonel Burch, the Warwick North Central constituency is being contested by Douglas De Couto, of the OBA, Collingwood Robinson, of the Free Democratic Movement, and independent candidate the pastor Maria Seaman.