October 17, 2021

Cayman Islands speaker denies working with blacklisted Chinese company

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GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands — Former premier and current speaker of the Legislative Assembly in the Cayman Islands, McKeeva Bush, has denied that his consulting firm is working with or consulting for China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC). The parent company of CHEC, China Communications Construction Company Limited (CCCC), was barred from being involved in projects financed by the World Bank in 2009 under its fraud and corruption sanctioning policy.

In a memo written on behalf of his company, WMB International Consulting Ltd, regarding his connections to CHEC, Bush indicated that he was in Belize in June “introducing” the Beijing-based firm to possible investments there, but he has said he is not working with them.

In 2013, as then premier, Bush faced opposition from Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) over his decision to negotiate with CHEC outside international procurement standards over the development of cruise berthing facilities in Grand Cayman.

The World Bank had stated that any firm directly or indirectly controlled by CCCC is ineligible for any World Bank financed contracts related to roads and bridges during the period 12 January 2009 to 12 January 2017, which automatically extended to CHEC as a major subsidiary of CCCC.

In its efforts to combat corruption in public sector contracting, the bank prohibits member countries from awarding World Bank-financed contracts to any of the firms or individuals that it has sanctioned.

CHEC rejected the concerns, stressing that it was not involved in and had never been involved in any activity that has attracted sanctions by the World Bank.

It said the issue related to 2003 and involved the China Road and Bridge Group, which was later taken over by CCCC in 2005. CHEC claimed its parent company came under the debarment in 2011 based on changes made at that time to the World Bank system.

The question of Bush’s continuing relationship with CHEC re-emerged in June this year, when Bush was reportedly in Belize consulting for Sinopharm, a Chinese pharmaceutical and health services firm, and introducing CHEC to possible business partners.

Bush told local media that his only connection to CHEC was that he introduced them to possible business in Belize.

“I am not a consultant for CHEC and have no relationship with CHEC in Belize or in Cayman,” Bush told Cayman News Service.

The Cayman Islands government admitted earlier this year that CHEC had submitted applications during the bidder pre-qualification stage of the latest iteration of the George Town cruise berthing facility. Since then it emerged that the Chinese firm had not continued with its bid.

However, in recent weeks the company appears to have re-engaged, and unconfirmed sources have indicated that the company may now be one of the remaining three bidder groups engaged in talks and government’s preferred choice. CHEC is said to be in talks with government offering to finance not just the George Town project but also a possible second pier in West Bay, Grand Cayman, and a dock on the sister island of Cayman Brac.

However, the government has said very little about how the tendering process is advancing, as no tender documents, plans or redesigns have been published and the talks appear to be continuing behind closed doors.

Bush is no stranger to controversy and, in 2013, was arrested and charged with misuse of government credit cards in casinos in Las Vegas, Florida and The Bahamas but ultimately acquitted at trial. In 2017, he was again arrested, this time in Florida, on charges of groping a female casino employee. The charges were later dropped.

IMAGE: Speaker of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly, McKeeva Bush

For more on this story go to: https://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/2018/08/27/cayman-islands-speaker-denies-working-with-blacklisted-chinese-company/

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