Grenada halts deal with troubled company

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada: The government has announced it will not sign a partnership agreement with an Asian company which had offered to invest millions of dollars into projects in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

Finance Minister Nazim Burke affirmed government’s position during a recent press conference about the latest development with Sewang One World. Two of its directors were recently arrested on bank fraud charges in Taiwan.

Grenadian representatives of Sewang approached government officials in late 2008, expressing investment interest. The original range of the proposed investment was between US$100 million and US$200 million.

“We could not ignore it; we had to explore it,” said Burke, referring to the proposal.

While exploring – which included the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in May – government insists that it was also exercising caution by following the due diligence process and carrying out background checks on Sewang One World.

Burke, who is also Minister responsible for Planning, Economy, Energy and Cooperatives, has defended the government’s approach, which included sending a two-member delegation to Taiwan for a recent follow up meeting to further assess Sewang’s investment offer. He said government had refused to sign a proposed partnership agreement, despite Sewang’s apparent attempts to rush a deal.

“We stand by our position,” Burke said. “We will not sign any documents unless Grenada is satisfied that the documents it signs would not bind the people of this country, and are in the people’s best interest. I feel absolutely vindicated that I did the right thing.”

The finance minister described the MOU as simply a “statement of mutual intent of the parties” and, therefore, did not tie Grenada into anything.

“It is not intended to bind anybody,” said Burke. “It does not contain legal obligations that are enforceable in law.”

Burke added, however, that “it was a mistake to have the Prime Minister of the country sign an MOU with a private company.”

“We should have ensured that the Prime Minister was not the one who signed the MOU. It is not the practice and it should not be done. We must admit and accept responsibility for that but…in signing the MOU, we were quite confident that we were not going to put Grenada into any trap,” added Burke.

He said that if Sewang’s money was legitimate and “there was two billion to be invested and we turned our back on these investors and they went to another country in the Caribbean and they invested this two billion in legitimate money, I would have been crucified”.

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