By CANDIA DAMES
Accuses govt of defamation
The company that came close to purchasing 49 percent of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) under the Christie administration isthreatening to sue the government over what it says are defamatory statements.
A U.S.-based attorney representing Bluewater Ventures Limited has written to attorney John Almeida, the government’s attorney.
Claudia T. Salomon of the New York law firm DLA Piper LLP said in a letter to Almeida, “It has come to our attention that representatives of the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas have made a series of false and defamatory statements about Bluewater and its principals.
“These statements — which denigrate the integrity, competence and experience of Bluewater — have been widely reported by the Bahamian press and have harmed Bluewater’s reputation.”
The letter continued, “In addition to being a clear violation of the terms of the settlement agreement and mutual release between Bluewater and the government, the government’s defamatory campaign is illegal.”
Last year the government agreed to pay Bluewater $1.9 million to settle a multi-million- dollar arbitration claim that alleged the Ingraham
administration violated the deal the investment company reached with the previous administration to buy 49 percent of BTC.
Bluewater is demanding that the government immediately cease and desist from making or publishing any “further defamatory statements” about
Bluewater and/or its principals, and take all steps necessary to correct the “prior defamatory statements” that have already been made by or on behalf of the government.
This includes but is not limited to issuing a public statement repudiating the prior defamatory statements, the letter said.
It asked the government’s attorney to advise no later than March 4, 2011 whether the government intends to take these steps. “If your client refuses to do so, we will pursue all available legal remedies to protect the interests of Bluewater and its principals,” the letter continued. Much of what government officials have said about Bluewater has been said on the floor of Parliament, which makes it privileged information.
But other statements have been made about the company in press releases.
The Christie administration had agreed to sell a 49 percent stake in the national telecommunications provider for $260 million shortly before the May 2007 general election.
However, after the Free National Movement returned to power, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham vowed to review the deal, claiming that
Christie and the former Cabinet were planning to sell BTC “on credit” and that Bluewater would enjoy too lengthy an exclusivity period as a monopoly in an industry that his administration was keen on liberalizing.
According to documents previously obtained by The Nassau Guardian, Bluewater had agreed to pay $220 million for BTC in cash at closing, $25 million at the end of the fifth year following closing and $15 million at the end of the sixth year.
Under the deal, Bluewater would have been granted mobile and landline licenses with five and six-year exclusive periods, respectively.
The government recently signed a share purchase agreement and a shareholders agreement with Cable and Wireless Communications to purchase 51 percent of BTC for $210 million, plus taxes.
Prime Minister Ingraham has said that the money derived from the sale of BTC — originally slated to fund the construction of a new hospital In New Providence — will now go toward paying down the rapidly escalating national debt.
The House of Assembly is scheduled to debate the deal sometime in March.
Ingraham has promised to say more about the Bluewater deal during that debate.
The government expects to close with CWC in early April.