Surprising faces involved in BVI Airways
- Plane leased for Haiti, Cuba route
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI
The saga and controversy surrounding BVI Airways continue as more and more information continues to drip out like a spy novel.
Last week more information was unearthed.
The airline which pulled out of the Terrence B. Lettsome International Airport on Beef Island, the main airport serving the Virgin Islands (VI) in 2014 claiming that it was bankrupt while owing the BVI Airports Authority over $100,000, is back thanks to tax payers.
Haitian company leasing planes
It was last year that the Dr D. Orlando Smith led-National Democratic Party (NDP) Administration pumped some $7.2 Million United States Dollars into the airline in exchange for direct flights from Miami, Florida, USA to Beef Island. The airline has gotten all the money upfront although Premier Smith, who is also the Minister of Finance, told the public the tax payers funds will be distributed to BVI Airways over three years’ time. BVI Airways got their cash payout within six months.
Now comes word that a Haitian airline is leasing BVI Airways planes. According to media reports, one of the two airplanes acquired with tax payers’ monies for BVI Airways started making flights between Haiti and Cuba last month. The arrangements of the lease agreement have not been made public by the VI Government; however, information shows that the plane was being used for flights between Port-au-Prince, Havana, Camaguey and Santiago de Cuba since April 27, 2017.
The BVI Airways plane is leased by the Haiti-based Sunrise Airways.
Some faces behind BVI Airways
Meanwhile, the government has released some of the names of the officials of BVI Airways, but many have been calling our reporters to allege that the names of two other locals with interests have not been released. However, our newsroom has not been able to confirm the information of the other two persons in question.
Responding to questions in the House of Assembly on Thursday, May 11, 2017 Premier and Finance Minister Dr The Honourable D. Orlando Smith (AL) said the directors of the subsidised airline are Jerry D. Willoughby, Scott A. Wiseman, Bruce Bradley, Pauline E. Jones; Lester S. Hyman, Robert Cisella and Ryan R. E. Geluk.
It is also important to note that VI tax payers have no ownership in the airline after Government told the public last year that the $7M of tax payers’ money pumped into the failed airline was an investment.
Now Dr Smith has changed his position, now saying the tax payers interest is only via a subsidy, meaning if the airline never flies the tax payers will never get a dime back. This information was made public following Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1), the Opposition Leader, questioning the Premier to provide the government’s percentage stake in BVI Airways. However, Premier Smith, to the surprise of many, confirmed there is no percentage stake, because the current agreement between government and BVI Airways is to provide a subsidy.
In addition, the cost of what government has to pay with the $7Million is increasing. It was learnt that a study was conducted by a U.S company on behalf of BVI Airlines; however; it was revealed that the government of the VI shared the cost.
According to Dr Smith’s answer to the Opposition Leader’s question on May 11, 2017, it was Sixel Consulting Group who conducted the study for $22,000. However, tax payers are not to know what is in the study. Premier Smith said that due to the commercial nature of the report, it would be prejudicial to provide a copy of the document at this time, which was done to advice on viability.
Hon Fahie then noted that if they did the study to demonstrate their capacity, why government needed to share the cost.
It was also unearthed last month that an account had to be opened for BVI Airways to facilitate government’s $7M, costing some $207,000 more. Dr Smith claimed that he shared the cost with BVI Airways.
Thus far the government has doled out over $7.3 Million dollars on the BVI Airways project; however, the plane is yet to fly the proposed Miami–Beef Island route.