New CTO Appointment
Economics of Going Green
State of Caribbean Media
Passport to Paradise
Death Sentence in 2 Years
Priest Thinks Twice
Charges & CounterCharges
Communication in Tourism
Moves to Oust Savarin
WIBC Settles with Gregory
UWP Leadership Question
Threat to State College?
Why Marpin Was Rejected
Sanford Now In Barbados
Hotels Threaten Shutdown
Urban Baron to Cross Floor
Lestrade & Stabilisation
Urban Baron Did Not Cross
PM Charles Tightens Grip
Search for New President
Tension at N.D.C.
New Independent Party?
AT & T in Dominica
Curtis Matthiew - DFP?
Sonia Williams - Indep...
SARS in Toronto, Canada
Bobby - Independent?
Casino Gambling Begins
Formal Opening of DSC
End of Douglas Dynasty?
Wage Bill Cut
DLP Want Theodore Fired
DFP Virtually Dead
PM's Fiscal Adjustment
Dr Etienne to PAHO
Relations with China?
Sam Raphael Resigns
Tour de Dominica Politics
PJ on Independence
Politics 25 Years Later
Cure For Aids Mooted
DSS Stymied by IMF
New Development at CTO
The Silent Killer
Grenada & Hurricane Ivan
Regional Tourism Security
Making Millions on Haitians
UWP Falling Apart
© Johnson JohnRose
Paradise-Aramco: Charges and Counter Charges
Charges and counter charges have begun to fly in the wake of a law suit filed by the Florida-based limited liability company, Paradise Group LLC and its subsidiary company, Aramco Industries Ltd. against the government of Dominica; the National Development Corporation (NDC); the Windward Islands Packaging Company Limited (WINERA); enterprise development minister, Ambrose George and tourism minister, Charles Savarin.
Civil case #02-60922 was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Fort Lauderdale division on July 3, 2002 by attorneys Hunton and Williams, on behalf of Paradise Group.
The issue revolves around a controversial aluminum plant at Jimmit, for which Aramco interviewed hundreds of Dominicans, 250 of whom it said it intended to employ, then suddenly announced it was shutting up shop and was leaving, just days before it was to begin operations.
In an 11-page court document, signed by Juan C. Enjamio, Esq. of the Florida Bar on behalf of the Paradise Group, the US-based company alleged that the defendants engaged in “a series of broken promises, lies and misrepresentations” in order to secure the plant, which at the time was based in Dubai.
“The shareholders are really pissed off,” Jacob Schelinger, chief executive officer of Paradise Group told the Sun in relating his side of the story. “We take down a profitable plant and bring it down (to Dominica), then there are so many lies.”
The lies, Schelinger claimed, started during the negotiations between his company and Savarin and George, to get the plant to Dominica. He claimed that George promised that only his ministry and cabinet would be involved in the process but that NDC later became involved by approving the project.
But the main grouse of Schelinger and his company appeared to be a two percent “document fee” applied by the customs department. The Paradise Group claimed that it was promised by George that the company would receive tax exemptions and that there were “no other duties, taxes or fees payable to the government,” and that the customs’ fee would cost Aramco Industries “millions of dollars”.
George would not comment on the matter, saying that he had not received any official documents from the Paradise Group or its lawyers.
But Savarin accused the company of filing lawsuits “willy nilly”- a reference to a previous suit filed the UK partner of the group against Prime Minister Pierre Charles and communications minister, Reginald Austrie - and questioned the company’s motives.
He said that the company was granted the “usual fiscal incentives under law” and dismissed as untrue the Group’s allegations that government stood in the way.
“The question arises as to whether Paradise Group ever had any intention to open any business in Dominica, or whether there was a deeper conspiracy which I am yet to put a finger on,” the tourism minister, who is also responsible for NDC, told the Sun.
“The US embassy should look into the matter and find out if its citizens are not seeking to smear Dominica and satisfy itself what is the motive,” the minister said.
But Schelinger insisted that there was no ulterior motive and all the company was interested in was assisting Dominica.
“If somebody is not serious he would not invest millions of dollars in a country. If somebody is not serious, we won’t close an existing profitable plant in another country, send home 200 workers, and go through the trouble of transferring equipment to Dominica,” he retorted. “There is no ulterior motive. This is nonsense.”
Several people involved in the process, including Savarin said the project was approved “in record time,” well ahead of the three to six months it would normally take for a project like this to receive approval.
“We bent backwards for these people to give them their licence. We don’t understand their action,” stated one person who spoke to the Sun on condition of anonymity.
Savarin described the lawsuit as frivolous, insisting that Dominica had done nothing to cause injury to the Paradise Group or Aramco Industries.
The US company’s lawyers would not speak about the case, stressing that the judge who is handling the case did not like lawyers discussing their cases in the media. But a legal expert familiar with the issue dismissed the charge of frivolity.
“They (Paradise Group) thought that they were misled on a number of things. They feel that they made a big effort to bring the business to the island and they found a series of obstacles. They’re suffering losses and they don’t feel that they were treated properly,” the expert said.
“I would disagree with you completely (that the suit is frivolous). If you deliberately misrepresent things to me and I act, and I suffer losses, then I am entitled to damages,” he said, adding that it would be up to the judge to decide if the company was in fact misled.
In the lawsuit, Paradise claimed that both George and Savarin acted in their “personal capacity” and were to benefit financially.
Schelinger repeated the allegation to the Sun, stressing that both were to serve as directors of Aramco, the local limited liability company established specifically to run the aluminum plant.
But Savarin laughed at the claim that he acted in his personal capacity. He admitted that Schelinger offered to make him a director, but said he never accepted the offer.
“Schelinger suggested to me that I could be a director of Aramco. I told him that I was of the view that it would be a conflict of interest and I would check with my lawyer,” Savarin told the Sun, adding that even if the lawyers had advised that it was not a conflict there was still a morale issue and he would not have accepted the offer.
The Minister stated that Schelinger proceeded to put the offer in writing but he did not respond.
“I never attended a meeting, I never met any director, I was never present, even for one minute at any meeting of the board of directors, I was never offered any payment and never received any payment,” a seemingly upset Savarin stressed.
‘Anybody can offer anything, anybody can say that they offer anything, and anybody can say you accepted anything, but there must be something to say that you accept. I have never, ever seen any paper signed by him (Schelinger) indicating that I was a director of the company,” he continued.
The company insisted that it would proceed with the suit and seek “millions of dollars” in damages, although a clerk at the Fort Lauderdale court told the Sun that since the suit was filed, nothing had happened.
“There have been no other developments. The plaintiff has to issue summons (but they are yet to do so),” the clerk said.
But Schelinger promised that summons would have been served on the individuals late last week and on the government this week. It could not be confirmed if the summons were issued before we went to press.
Meantime, the Paradise Group has been accused of failing to meet its financial commitments in Dominica and of applying to government for concessions on its equipment and material that have been held up on the port even after it filed the suit.
“They haven’t paid rent at any of places they rented, either the house at Belfast or WINERA. They just packed up and left,” a source that preferred to remain anonymous told the Sun.
The Paradise boss dismissed the claim as another lie.
“It’s another lie. We have paid rent. Everything that had to be paid was paid. If you think that a couple of tens of thousands of dollars will change our lives, you are mistaken,” he stated.
Paradise rented the WINERA building at Jimmit to house the plant. It has asked the court, among other rulings, to nullify its contract with WINERA.