Time to come clean on Arbitrade
After the Premier’s question period last Friday in Parliament, David Burt was forced to take the seldom used “Personal Explanation” period during the next sitting on Monday to correct a misleading answer to a question I put to him.
During the question period, I asked Mr Burt what government vetting was done on Arbitrade, a non-Bermudian entity, and its application to buy Bermudian-owned land.
He replied that enhanced due diligence was done “that was requested by myself to the highest levels”.
He went on to say that those questions went to the assistant financial secretary, and the assistant financial secretary went to the Financial Intelligence Agency and made sure they completed background checks using the International Interpol Systems for all various directors.
The Premier said that background checks came back with no objections.
In spite of being asked, the Premier refused to say on which individuals the background checks were done.
On Monday, in Parliament, during the Personal Explanation period, the Premier attempted to come clean on his earlier misleading answer from Friday by “clarifying” that “multiple sources, not solely Interpol” conducted due diligence.
He went on to claim that this was a minor distinction.
Well, herein lies the problem. In my experience, the Ministry of Finance and the FIA are unable to have any vetting done by Interpol directly unless the Bermuda Police Service are involved.
Mr Burt needs to admit that he unknowingly or knowingly misled Parliament last Friday.
In addition, given the media coverage of Arbitrade, he needs to answer if the BPS were involved, what agencies actually provided background checks and on which individuals the background checks were done.
It is now apparent that Mr Burt is trying to create a separation between the Government and Arbitrade.
On May 31, he posted a tweet highlighting a presentation by Arbitrade that he attended, during which the company demonstrated its cryptocurrency platform.
Since then, he has been unable or unwilling to provide the names of the Arbitrade officials he met, in spite of repeated questions in Parliament and his commitment to provide them.
Questions have been either left unanswered or have been answered inadequately.
Last Friday was the most recent demonstration by the Premier of the glaring lack of accountability and transparency that is becoming all too common for this Progressive Labour Party government.
As my colleagues and I have said many times, it is important and necessary that we continue to attract foreign capital and investment in Bermuda.
In doing so, we must ensure that Bermuda’s good reputation as a blue-chip destination for business is upheld. If the loyal Opposition cannot receive answers to simple questions, then red flags are raised.
It is clear that the PLP government has allowed the sale of land owned by Bermudians to a company formed by non-Bermudians that, as the Premier stated, has not applied for a licence under the Initial Coin Offering Act.
Nor has it been issued a licence by the Bermuda Monetary Authority to conduct a digital asset business.
There is no guarantee that either licence will be granted. Yet the PLP government has allowed Arbitrade to buy a building to do what? Sell fishcakes?
The Premier said: “The approval for a company to purchase property is wholly unrelated to Bermuda’s digital asset regime and it would not be correct to state that one will affect the other or to imply, as some have, that an approval to purchase property is a sign that other approvals are imminent.”
This sounds like the cart being put in front of the horse.
It is time to come clean.
Bermuda can be assured that the One Bermuda Alliance while in Opposition will hold this government accountable and will not cease asking the appropriate questions that Bermudians wish answered to ensure our Bermudian land is not sold off without proper vetting and that our birthright is appropriately protected.
• Michael Dunkley is the former Premier of Bermuda, an Opposition backbencher and the MP for Smith’s North (Constituency 10)