Former Barbuda senator wants Virdee’s lease revoked

From left, Peter Virdee, Prime Minister Gaston Browne, Minister of Energy Asot Michael, and Utilities Minister Sir Robin Yearwood during the opening of the solar plant in February 2016. (File photo)

The government has said no action is necessary after one of Antigua & Barbuda’s investors was arrested. However, General Secretary  and Former Senator of the Barbuda People’s Movement Mackenzie Frank is calling for the lease of almost 1,000 acres of Barbuda lands to be scrapped.

Last week, 43-year-old British businessman, Peter Virdee was arrested at Gatwick Airport under the European Arrest Warrant, on behalf of the German authorities, in connection with an alleged £100 million tax scam, where he is accused of being the mastermind.

Virdee was named as an investor in an almost 1,000-acre development on Barbuda, and his company built and installed the solar power plant at the VC Bird International Airport.

“We did warn the governor general at the time that this thing was bogus, and we believe now that they should take back the lease and the lease should be reverted to the people.

“They were never properly given permission to use those lands, so the lease should be taken back and the proper process followed,” Frank told OBSERVER.

The former Barbuda senator said the Barbuda people never approved Virdee’s involvement in the project, which comprises a five-star hotel, restaurant, two marinas and an 18-hole golf course at Gravenor Bay, Barbuda.

“We never knew who he was. We were never presented with a plan by him, and so in that regard I am not surprised that the situation is now what it is – that he is arrested by the British authority on behalf of the Germans, because the thing was not going to be done properly,” he added.

The BPM member reiterated that no one project should have been given such a vast amount of the sister isle’s lands for development.

But Member of Parliament Arthur Nibbs said the call by Frank to revoke the lease is premature.

“The land was granted to Stanhope Shepherd, and Mr Virdee came in as the financier for that project. So it is two different situations here. This is not Stanhope involved in this fraud and Stanhope was the one who got the lease,” Nibbs told OBSERVER media.

In a release, the government said it was aware of the allegations against Virdee, but the businessman’s investments here are not related to the probe that led to his arrest.

OBSERVER media was unable to reach Adam Barrett, who is involved also in the Gravenor Virdee project.

(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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