Hoisting the Jolly Roger is not so easy

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Those in High Places must be shivering their timbers. Heretofore, they’d been rubbing their hands in gleeful anticipation of the ‘windfall’ on the high seas. Not even Captain Kidd or Black Bart, could ever boast of such a haul, in one fell swoop. Our modern-day band of buccaneers was making this piracy thing look easy – change a couple of laws, make a big protest about transparency and accountability, concoct a phony story about the supposed threat to the environment, make-up a dubious story about how the vessel had been abandoned, give the owner of the vessel an unreasonably short deadline, refuse to acknowledge receipt of his e-mails, then seize the bloody thing. This was supposed to be like taking candy from a child.

But alas! There is now a fly in the ointment. Seems, the good gentleman, Mr Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO who submitted the winning bid of US$67.6 million, is concerned that there are still outstanding matters having to do with the original owners of the vessel, and he wants to make sure that when he finally takes possession of it, that it is free and clear of all legal entanglements and encumbrances. Hmmmm!

With Schmidt now seeming to be getting cold feet, a la a regular landlubber, our pirates are having a conniption. The booty, indeed, the ill-gotten gain, appears to be walking the plank. It is not difficult to imagine that they are experiencing long nights of insomnia, fitfully wondering if the dawn will bring them some relief, some good news that Mr Eric Schmidt has finally opened the treasure chest, and the loot is no longer buried under injunctions and other legal hindrances.

Of course, our greedy, grasping desperadoes are doing all in their power to persuade Mr Schmidt to open the treasure chest. So at last week’s Cabinet meeting, their eyes shiny and bulging, their hands trembling in nervous anticipation, and with beads of perspiration on their brows, they gave him all the assurances that they thought he’d need to loosen the purse strings. Said they in careless abandon, Following prayers, the Cabinet held a brief discussion on the sale of the Alfa Nero. The decision by the High Court of last Friday, June 30, 2023, to dismiss the latest request for injunctive relief by a Russian citizen/litigant who claims ownership of the vessel, prompted the Cabinet to decide to provide the purchaser with a guarantee against future liabilities and to proceed with the consummation of the sale. Further delays, the Cabinet fears, may frustrate the purchaser. The Cabinet’s decision will bring an end to the wasteful and frivolous litigation by the Russian citizen.”

So an heiress fighting to hold on to her US$120M inheritance is being “wasteful and frivolous?” Should she not fight to retrieve her inheritance that was seized on a technicality by pirates posing as Ministers of Government? How twisted in their thinking are these charlatans? Sigh! Captain Sir Henry Morgan, another pirate who became the Governor of Jamaica, and who spent most of his time drinking rum with his erstwhile pirate buddies in Port Royal, must be so very proud of our ‘buccaneerism.’ He is resting easy, secure in the knowledge that the piracy that he taught, way back in the 1660’s, is now being executed by us in grand style.

Of course, even after Schmidt takes possession of the vessel, if he ever does, there is the small matter of what entity should rightfully get the funds. There is a thinking in many circles that the funds DO NOT BELONG TO ANTIGUA, and after we have cleared all the debts associated with the vessel being here for so many months, the rest of the money should go to the suffering people of Ukraine, the people who were unfairly attacked, and whose towns, cities and infrastructure are being systematically destroyed. The oligarchs became wealthy on account of their association with, and support, of Putin. As far as we know, for the most part, they have not denounced and distanced themselves from his adventure, his so-called, ‘special operation’ in Ukraine. So the world decided to inflict some pain and condemnation on him by putting pain and hardship on his wealthy supporters. This, in a bid to give him pause, and persuade him to reconsider his foray into Ukraine. Hence, the sanctions on their assets – real estate holdings, super yachts and the like. Why should Antigua and Barbuda benefit from the seizure and sale of a vessel that was in port, unable to move freely on the high seas, on account of those sanctions? There is something morally perverse about the seizure and sale of the Alfa Nero and the depositing of the funds in our account.

Attorney Dr David Dorsett, who is representing Yulia Guryeva Motlokhov, the owner of the Alfa Nero, filed an appeal to the Court’s ruling last week which seemed to clear the way for the sale of the vessel to be consummated. [See story in today’s DAILY OBSERVER, Appeal filed in latest bid to halt Alfa Nero sale, by Shermain Bique-Charles]. Clearly, this legal fight is not going to go away any time soon. And it stands to reason. Who in their right minds would simply walk away from a luxury superyacht worth millions –  a superyacht loaded with millions more in expensive art? Our government geniuses were clearly living in a fairy-tale world where they thought that they could spin a cock-and-bull story about “abandonment” and “environmental threat” into gold. Said the good Attorney Dr Dorsett when he filed his appeal to the abovementioned Court ruling, this past Monday: “It is not the government’s yacht; they cannot just take it up and sell it to somebody else… We just want our boat back. . . . We would not be filing an appeal unless we had good and sound reasons to bring the appeal. We think the action of the government in taking possession of the yacht and selling the yacht is wrong on all levels.” We agree with him wholeheartedly. Only in a world run by Anne Bonny, Mary Read and Calico Jack could such a brazen and high-handed heist, under a cloak of legal gymnastics, be seen as just and morally right.

Yes, the ducats, the doubloons and the pieces of eight amounting to US$67.6 million are supposed to be deposited into our treasury, much as the loot taken by the English pirates from the vessels that they seized back in the day, was deposited into the treasury of England for the will and pleasure of Elizabeth Tudor – Elizabeth I, aka ‘the pirate queen.’ Queen Elizabeth I loved Francis Drake, John Hawkins and other villains, “because they employed cold war tactics against Spain and secured England’s financial stability with stolen goods.” [Google]. Hmmmm! Seems,we need those ducats and doubloons as a matter of grave urgency to secure our ‘financial stability.’

As it stands here in our fair State, we are in a period of much financial instability. In other words, we are broke! Stone-cold broke! We desperately need ‘the windfall’ from the sale of the Alfa Nero. The Port Authority, the biggest source of our revenue is bawlin’ about its shaky financial position. They are supposedly going to be doing some restructuring and reorganising. According to the Cabinet notes of Thursday 6 July, 2023: “The Cabinet invited three officials from the Antigua Port Authority and the Ministry of Finance to report on the Port’s profitability, and any barriers to making the Port more efficient. The Port now has a USD97M mortgage to repay, following its recent expansion and upgrade using borrowed money from the Exim Bank of China. The Port must generate sufficient revenue to to meet its monthly mortgage and other expenses. The Port now spends seventy percent of its revenue on making staff payments to include salaries, wages and overtime. It operates at a deficit which cannot be continuously sustained . . .”

This desperate government is trying to hold things together (See disgruntled Port workers, the Exim Bank of China, and CBH workers, all bawlin’ for monies owed them) until the treasure chest in opened and the booty spills out. (See the desperation indemnity granted to Eric Schmidt as mentioned above). But with this new Court action by Attorney Dr David Dorsett, Mr Schmidt will not be opening any treasure chest, at least, not in the near future.

This treasure will remain buried, and a skull and cross-bones (signifying danger) will continue to mark the spot for a while yet.

      We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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