US investigates Sandals hotel

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The Sunday Herald cover story proclaims, 'US probes Sandals; Hotel chain allegedly paid US$1.6 million to ex Turks and Caicos premier (Michael Missick). According to the report, the United States Department of Homeland Security is investigating whether Sandals Resorts International or its chairman, Gordon 'Butch' Stewart made political contributions to the seeming benefit of disgraced former Turks and Caicos premier, Michael Missick. The Sunday Herald interviewed investigator Brian McCormick, who was in Jamaica recently collecting statements and questioning persons, including former top Sandals executive, Dr Jeffrey Pine. Pyne is said to be the defendant in a multimillion dollar lawsuit in the Bahamian Supreme Court. According to the newspaper, the US is probing Sandals' operation in the Turks and Caicos islands, where it is alleged that US$1.65 million of the resort chain's funds was improperly transferred through the Bahamas to Missick. Details of the US probe are revealed in a legal action filed in the Bahamas Supreme Court on behalf of Bahamas-domiciled Sandals Resorts International 2000, a company that acts as the parent for numerous entities that own Sandals hotels throughout the Caribbean. Several telephone calls to Sandals' legal officer Dmitri Singh's office in Montego Bay were reportedly not returned. The action, filed on June 30, 2011, alleges that Dr Jeffrey Pyne, a former director of Sandals Resorts International 2000, and the group's former treasurer and governmental liaison officer, breached his fiduciary duty and employment contract by causing the Bahamian company and other Sandals entity to make a series of seven purportedly unauthorised wired transfers to three Turks and Caicos-based companies between March 3 2005 and October 26, 2006. The three entities that received the wire transfers included two law firms, Chalmers & Coe and Missick a& Stanbrook, both of which were headed by two of Michael Missick's brothers, Chal and Ariel. The other firm, Prestigious Propertities, is a real estate company run by another of Missick's brothers, Washington. Sandals Resorts Interntional 2000, in its statement of Claim, is alleging that the seven wire transfers totalling US$1.65 million, "were not made for any legitimate, commercial or other purpose of the plaintiff's business or interest". In further claims that "the purpose of most of the transfers" was to equip the three Turks and Caicos companies with funds "to pay the debts of certain third parties in Turks and Caicos", a cryptic reference to Michael Missick. Sandals is seeking the return of its allegedly missing US$1.65 million, either through the recovery of the original funds, or compensation from Dr Pyne. In his defence, Pyne has charged that the Bahamian action initiated against him, stems "from an investigation being carried out by the United States authorities in respect of whether Sandals or Gordon 'Butch' Stewart made political contributions to Michael Missick". "Based on the same, Mr Stewart has wrongfully sought to allege that I, in my capacity as managing director of Gorstew, forwarded the funds to Michael Missick without Mr Stewart's approval or instructions," Dr Pyne explained. "This is a fabrication which I have strenuously denied,and have taken steps to explain my involvement", In a September 22, 2011 affidavit, Dr Pyne alleged that the Bahamian Supreme Court action had been filed to avoid litigation in either the Turks & Caicos or Jamaica, and that Sandals was merely forum shopping. "The flow of all funds through the resort chain Dr Pyne alleged was controlled by Mr Stewart through Unique Vacations, Sandals' worldwide marketing and reservations agent, and Phyllis Thompson in Barbados. All payments of special requests or unusual bills had to be approved by Mr Stewart, Dr Pyne claimed. The Sunday Herald story noted that in response, via an October 21, 2011 affidavit, Dmitri Singh alleged that Dr Pyne was merely seeking to besmirch Sandals' and Mr Stewart's reputation by revealing the US investigations. Singh also admitted that there was an ongoing investigation by the US authorities into Sandals affairs in the Turks & Caicos Islands.
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