BVI News

MORE CONFUSION: Gov’t did not approve BiWater sale

Mark Vanterpool

Mark Vanterpool

By Horace Mills, BVI News Online Staff

Minister of Communication and Works Mark Vanterpool has declared in the House of Assembly that Government, to date, has not agreed to the purported sale of BiWater BVI Limited to another company known as Seven Seas.

He also indicated that he does not know whether or not BiWater has been sold.

That declaration has left more questions than answers, particularly because the minister and representatives of Seven Seas have entered into a crucial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), albeit non-binding.

Under the MOU, the minister is trying to have Seven Seas amend a contract the BVI government signed with BiWater BVI Limited back in 2010.

Those negotiations, Seven Seas said, started in the middle of 2016.

Those developments beg the question: How could the minister be trying to have Seven Seas amend the BiWater contract without knowing for sure whether or not Seven Seas has bought BiWater BVI?

While responding to a barrage of questions fired by Opposition member Julian Fraser, the minister today told the House of Assembly: “I stand to be corrected, but I don’t know if I have said that BiWater has not been sold. I said the government has not agreed up to this point to the sale. Any legal questions like that I am not in a position to answer. But I know that I did not say that BiWater was not sold.”

During a previous sitting of the House in December 2016 the minister indeed stated that “the government of the Virgin Islands did not approve the sale of interest in the BiWater plant at Paraquita Bay to anyone or any group”.

The minister’s comment, at the time, undermined a claim Seven Seas had made more than a year earlier. Seven Seas, in a press release in August 2015, had announced that it had purchased BiWater BVI.

BiWater plant at Paraquita Bay, Tortola

BiWater plant at Paraquita Bay, Tortola

Before today’s developments in the House of Assembly, the BiWater BVI saga seemed settled. This after the minister declared last month: “Essentially and effectively, the principals of BiWater are no longer here operating; it is now being operated by Seven Seas.”

Second ‘BiWater’ company formed

Meanwhile, it became apparent today that a second private company – BiWater BVI Holdings Limited – had been brought into the relatively complex picture.

Even the minister did not appear certain about the doings of that second firm.

While being questioned about it today, the minister told the House: “All of the [BiWater] agreements with the bank and the guarantors in the United Kingdom were between BiWater BVI Limited. I don’t know what arrangement, and we haven’t accepted and finalized what arrangements may or may not have been made with BiWater BVI Limited and the company that is proposed as purchaser. I cannot give the member (Fraser) an answer as these matters are not completely settled. I wish I could, but I can’t.”

Fraser, in the meantime, suggested to the minister that BiWater BVI Holdings Limited was established to facilitate the sale of BiWater BVI Limited to Seven Seas.

Fraser reasoned: “BiWater BVI Limited was a company that was established for the sole purpose of constructing the water plant at Paraquita Bay [according to the 2010 contract]. BiWater BVI Holdings Limited however, I submit, that that company was established for the sole purpose of transferring the assets to Seven Seas [which is the purported purchaser of BiWater BVI Limited]. And that’s the question I want answered to know when this company was established and why it was established. But the answer doesn’t seem to be forthcoming [from the minister]”.

Doesn’t know assets

The minister told the House that he also does not know the assets owned by BiWater BVI Holdings Limited, and he is not interested in knowing them.

“I am not aware of BiWater BVI Holdings Limited list of assets. I think BiWater Holdings Limited is a limited corporation for which I am not privy to their list of assets, and therefore I did not ask, and I do not intend to ask [for the list of assets],” the minister said in response to more questions posed by Fraser.

Fraser

Fraser

Fraser then asked if the minister would agree that the government should know the list of assets if the company had been sold to Seven Seas or Seven Seas’ parent company AquaVenture’s BVI.

Fraser said: “I wonder if the minister would be able to tell me whether he knows or agrees that any BiWater agreement – any such transaction sale of the company or its assets – could only be legal and binding if the government agrees.”

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