Government denies business collaboration with Coca-Cola heir

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The Government of Antigua and Barbuda has rejected the claim made by Greek billionaire, 50-year-old Alkiviades “Alki” David, who alleged that he and Chase Ergen – the heir to a satellite fortune – were developing a cannabis business venture in the twin island state.

The Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Steadroy Benjamin, told OBSERVER media yesterday that he had no knowledge of any such business venture or proposal.

According to reports from St. Kitts, David, the heir to the Coca-Cola fortune, was arrested by the Anti-Narcotics Unit at the Robert L. Bradshaw (RLB) International Airport on May 7th after a search of his private jet discovered more than $1.3 million worth of cannabis on board.

He was subsequently charged for possession of controlled drugs, possession with intent to supply and importation of a controlled drug into the Federation. He was initially released on EC $30,000 cash bail, ordered to surrender all his travel documents, and report to a police station daily.

However, David reportedly departed St. Kitts Tuesday night after he was released on EC $300,000 bail following an appearance in court earlier that day. The media had been barred from covering the court case on Tuesday.

According to a statement from the St. Kitts police, “David’s previous bail conditions were revoked, and he was granted bail under new conditions. The new conditions were a cash bail of EC $300,000 and EC $600,000 with two sureties for his appearance at the Basseterre Magistrate Court on Monday, September 23rd, 2019.”

In April, David and Ergen announced that they had formed a consortium aimed at developing the cannabis business in St. Kitts-Nevis, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda.

And, during a news conference on Monday, David claimed the plants on board his private aircraft were “all hemp” and were intended for a new venture to start a legal cannabis business in the region.

But a St. Kitts government statement issued on Tuesday quoted Prime Minister Harris as saying recently that “non-nationals would not be permitted to secure advantages over nationals of our Federation as we set about to build out a marijuana industry”.

Antigua and Barbuda has been vetting several groups of foreigners, including US actress Whoopi Goldberg, who are interested in setting up businesses to use cannabis for medicinal purposes, but no mention had ever been made of David and Ergen.

In fact, teams from Canada, the UK, Jamaica and the United States have made presentations to the Cabinet with the intention of fostering a relationship with the government in relation to cannabis products.

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