The US$57M Marriott Hotel is significantly completed but there questions remain as to where Government is finding the money from to continue construction and other critical works.
Initially, Government had plugged in US$20M leaving it to find another US$37M from a private investor and a syndicated loan from Republic Bank Trinidad Limited.
However, that US$37M had remained elusive as a court case filed by Opposition’ Member of Parliament, Desmond Trotman, has sought to block the mortgaging of the Kingston property.
In the meantime, works are still continuing on the site.
According to Leader of the Alliance For Change (AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan, his party has been paying close attention to the Marriott Hotel development.
“Parliament has been prorogued so we can’t question them there. However, that does not stop us from asking questions in the public domain. This hotel is set to open early next year. It has been largely completed. So where is the money coming from?”
According to the MP, his party has been doing its own investigations and from sources in the Ministry of Finance, it is more than likely that Government is illegally using monies from several secret accounts that it has hidden around the place.
“It would explain how the Government, under the Ministry of Finance, has been able to carry on construction. It would also highlight the gross disrespect that this Donald Ramotar administration has for the people of Guyana and how little regard it has for the laws of Guyana, and for Parliament.”
Ramjattan pointed out that it was the Auditor General who discovered several seemingly unused state accounts that had millions of dollars lying around in them. There were more than 10 bank accounts with over $2B.
“It is highly illegal to spend taxpayers’ dollars without oversight of the National Assembly. Yet that is what we see happening. My enlightened guess is that these are the monies being used…monies that should have rightly been deposited into the Consolidated Fund.”
The Opposition Member of Parliament said that the fact that the private investors have not yet put their US$8M in along with the US$27M loan from the Republic Bank should raise alarm bells.
“That is why they did not want local Guyanese to invest in the project. We have rich Guyanese yet Winston Brassington who heads the project, with blessings from this Government, is not coming clean with details of is happening.”
Earlier this month, Brassington, who heads the Atlantic Hotels Inc, a partially Government-owned company which is managing the Kingston hotel project, admitted that it has not yet received a blind cent of the US$8M that two Hong Kong businessman were supposed to have invested.
Brassington said that a court case by Member of Parliament Trotman blocking the mortgage has held up the US$27M syndicated loan, which in effect has delayed the US$8M coming from the Hong Kong businessmen.
Earlier this year, it was announced that the businessmen, Victor How Chung Chan and Xu Han, who are principals in the British Virgin Islands (BVI)-registered ACE Square Investments Ltd, have agreed to come on board as private investors, for US$8M. With that amount, in effect Ace Square would have taken control of 67 percent of the hotel– another controversial decision.
To secure the Republic Bank syndicated loan, Government, a few months ago, moved to mortgage the lands and property in Kingston where the project is being built. One week later AHI said that it was taking out a debenture on the Marriott.
A court case filed by Trotman, in his private capacity, asked for court orders to block the mortgaging of the lands. Trotman said that the transfer of the lands by Government to AHI was illegal.
The Marriott Hotel has been mired in controversy from its inception firstly with the rerouting of the sewerage system before any works had begun.
Prior to the NICIL money, Government had given Courtney Benn Contracting Services Limited a US$1M contract for the rerouting of the sewerage system in the Kingston locale. That contract was pulled after more than US$700,000 was paid over. It was then given to an overseas company, for a further US$2M.
AHI also leased the prime seven acres of shorefront property on which the hotel rests for a measly US$120 (G$24,000) per month with the option to buy.
The hotel construction is being carried out by Shanghai Construction Group.
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