Did Kenny mistake snake oil for Crude?

Leader of the Opposition Kenny Anthony.

That he counts himself among the Caribbean’s more proficient creative writers may or may not be Earl Huntley’s greatest arrogance. When employed by the Kenny Anthony government as this island’s ambassador to the UN, he was equally self convinced that his plenipotentiary status authorized him independently to dispose of prime New York real estate, without the knowledge, let alone permission, of its owner: the government of Saint Lucia. It would take a taxpayer-funded farcical inquiry to readjust his thinking. This was commissioner and former high court judge Albert Matthew’s comment on Huntley’s immeasurable hubris in the face of “clear evidence of impropriety and misfeasance.”:

“I am of the view that the ambassador was misguided. The ambassador is an agent of his government and as such he must act in accordance with instructions on all matters pertaining to the disposal of the property of government . . . It is an elementary principle in English law that a person cannot give away or dispose of what he has not got. Customary international law cannot give an ambassador authority to do anything that infringes the law of the land . . . There can be no plausible reason why the ambassador should cause a loan to be made without the authority of the government of Saint Lucia . . . The ambassador should not lease, mortgage, sell or in any way deal with the property of the government of Saint Lucia without specific approval.” Matthew cited the “recent case of the attorney general versus Martinus Francois with respect to the Rochamel hotel, which illustrates that not even the Minister of Finance can borrow money on behalf of the state without the approval of parliament.” Finally, this: “The ambassador should be able to decide which decisions he can make and those for which he should obtain instructions. If an ambassador has the powers as [Huntley] claimed, then he would have the authority to sell Saint Lucia without reporting to anyone!” As for Huntley’s “acts of impropriety and misfeasance,” according to the commissioner, they included “the transfer of title from the government of Saint Lucia to Michael Bartlett without the knowledge of the government, the facilitation of a loan over the property without the approval of the government, and the engagement of real estate agents in respect of the property’s redevelopment, again without the government’s knowledge.”

Of course, Kenny Anthony, a specialist in constitutional law, had to have known his ambassador to the UN, when surreptitiously he undertook the transactions detailed by Justice Matthew, engaged in “the wrongful exercise of lawful authority”—generally referred to as abuse of office. And yet it was only after Huntley’s controversial stint at the UN had ran its costly course—and the secret details of his underhand deal with the aforementioned Michael Bartlett were making local headlines—that the prime minister initiated a one-man investigation. Intriguingly, it was the prime minister’s office that had produced for Matthew the list of names to be questioned, nearly all of them resident in New York, at least one of the most important among them being an acknowledged dear friend of Kenny Anthony who alone knows why he simply did not summon Huntley to his office for questioning. In all events, the prime minister did not need a special inquiry to discover his ambassador had without lawful authority transferred ownership of Saint Lucia-owned New York real estate from the government to his friend. It remains conjectural precisely why the government never bothered to investigate widespread disturbing rumors about the secret Huntley-Bartlett transaction while the ambassador was still in office. Equally perplexing is Kenny Anthony’s decision, taken under public pressure, to initiate an investigation that might credibly have been carried out by the permanent secretary at the foreign affairs ministry. Of course, as earlier intimated, the prime minister might himself have from the start invited Earl Huntley to officially lay to rest the disturbing rumors.Then again, Kenny Anthony’s relationship with Earl Huntley has been nothing if not always surreal. How surprising can be it be, then, to discover him at the heart of the latest controversy involving the former prime minister, Richard Frederick and Rufus Bousquet.

If for a moment we can put aside our nagging suspicions, who better to tell “the story of the Dauphin Oil Project” than the man who initiated it? If you think Huntley’s tale reads less as if written for the official purposes of the foreign affairs ministry than for the fantastical designs of a tourist brochure, well, only the writer knows why:
“The story of the search of oil and gas in St. Lucia—the Dauphin Oil Project—begins sometime in 1999 when I decided to go for a sea bath at Dauphin Beach on the east coast of the island. Dauphin is in the district of Gros Islet, in a remote corner of the community of Monchy. At that time, Dauphin was accessible by one of the roughest roads imaginable. To get there, one drove to La Borne and from La Borne down hill to the beach, on a road that had not been repaired since the 1960s. I had not been to Dauphin since I had stopped living in Monchy in 1971 and I had promised my then fiancé to show her the Carib artifacts that are also found at Dauphin. I was also recovering from a bout of flu and thought that the sea bath would finally break it.”

The sea water [sic] proved “more than an antidote for the ‘flu,” wrote Huntley. “It turned up something else quite extraordinary. When we left the sea, my fiancé and I discovered that under our feet and our hands were black and oily. The white circles on her grey and white swimsuit had also tuned [sic] black and oily. We soon realized that the oil had come from the sea water in which we had been bathing. A closer examination of the water revealed that it was indeed very oily.”

Eureka! The moment that triggered what could yet turn out to be the Kenny Anthony administration’s stickiest scandal. But Huntley is just warming up. He recalls his 60s and 70s boyhood, and much idle talk about “an oil tanker that had probably sunk in the vicinity some time during one of the world wars.”

By his own flowery recollection, Huntley walked away on oiled feet from his 1999 ‘flu-chasing sea bath “convinced that there had to be more” to the morning’s experience than an unreported long-ago-sunken and oozing oil tanker. Selflessly looking out for the best interests of Saint Lucia, he wondered “if the waters could be tested to see whether there was indeed oil in the area and to find out its source.” He was at the time the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, loaded with political clout. He contacted the island’s ambassador in Washington and assigned her the job of identifying “a small oil company that might be interested in carrying out tests in the area to discover whether or not there was a source of oil.”

Why a “small company?” Huntley elucidates: “I thought that none of the larger companies would not [sic] want to act simply on my feelings that there was oil at Dauphin while a small company might be more willing to accommodate us.” After all, he was “basically acting on a hunch.” A more established company might not be as desperate to strike oil.
Conceivably, by “us” Huntley referred to his Washington-based subordinate Sonia Johnny. He was not quite ready “to draw the matter to the attention of the authorities.” His chosen “approach was to first quietly find out whether there was any possibility for oil exploration in the area and if there was then I would inform the government of the situation.”

Huntley’s modus operandi brings to mind the time he decided to take it upon himself to enter into a deal involving New York real estate owned by the Saint Lucia government without the knowledge of the Saint Lucia government. By all he told Justice Matthew on the matter, he deemed it a waste of precious time to seek his government’s counsel on what he planned to do with its multi-million-dollar New York property. Regardless of the consequences, he would do what by his measure was urgently needed and inform his superiors at his leisure!

Huntley does not say how Sonia Johnny located Grynberg Petroleum, a Colorado-based company independently owned by 78-year-old Jack Grynberg. (Speaking of whom: it would appear that Grynberg shares with Kenny Anthony a common penchant for litigation: In 2010 Grynberg filed a 311-page complaint with the European Commission asking for an investigation into alleged bribery and tax evasion in Kazahstan by several oil companies he once partnered with. Grynbert alleged “wholesale bribery and corruption of top Kazakh government officials.” But I fear I am ahead of myself.) Huntley says Grynberg not only confirmed his company’s willingness to carry out tests but also requested that Huntley supply him with samples of water and sand from the sea at Dauphin.
Luck was still with the gambler. He writes: “A friend of the company’s CEO who just happened to be in Saint Lucia at that time took the required samples to be tested in the States.” Conceivably on the strength of what the tests revealed, an “intrigued” Jack Grynberg came to Saint Lucia to visit Dauphin and to carry out an examination of the swimsuit that Huntley’s fiancé had worn on the serendipitous occasion at Dauphin. Alas, by then—and in sharp contradistinction to the case involving a president of the United States and the most discussed little blue dress in the world—the oily stain on the swimsuit “had been washed away and did not yield much.”

But that was hardly a serious setback. The black cliffs of Dauphin, as well as the black beach itself, indicated to Grynberg the presence of oil. At any rate, so says Earl Huntley who earlier on had found himself knee deep in the sticky stuff. Grynberg “theorized that the oil was offshore, not on land.” And now he wanted to sign “an agreement with the government for a license to explore for oil offshore St. Lucia.”

Only then did Huntley introduce to Prime Minister Kenny Anthony the oilman from Denver, Colorado, that Sonia Johnny had headhunted for him and about whom, as it turned out, Johnny and Huntley knew far less than was on his record.
Again Huntley neglects to mention the reasons, as he says, “the prime minister agreed to grant the license,” following which Grynberg submitted a draft agreement for signature. “On the suggestion of attorney general Petrus Compton,” writes Huntley, the Commonwealth Secretariat vetted and approved Grynberg’s draft, at which point the prime minister and the Colorado oilman officially sealed the deal by which Grynberg’s RSM Corporation was granted “the rights of exploration for oil and gas in St Lucian waters”. The date: March 28, 2000.

Huntley revealed in his story that Grynberg also expressed interest in an exploration agreement with St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Dominica. “His theory was that any oil there is was coming from the Orinico, in Venezuela. The minister responsible for energy in St Vincent and the Grenadines at the time was John Horn and in discussions with him he told me St Lucia and St Vincent had nothing to lose by agreeing to grant licenses for exploration and so St Vincent also concluded an agreement with Grynberg’s RSM. Grenada was to do the same afterward.” Again we have no idea who introduced the oilman to the two other leaders or why he chose to express his initial interest in their territories to Earl Huntley.

On the face of it, Huntley, based on his experience at Dauphin and the untested theories of Grynberg, roped in not only Kenny Anthony but also the leaders of the two sister islands with whom Huntley held discussions relating to his oily medicinal bath at Dauphin. If only they had bothered to look up what the records say about Jack Grynberg and his RSM Corporation. But then Huntley was, by his own account, sworn to secrecy. Kenny Anthony had directed him to “keep the matter absolutely confidential until such time as the exploration for oil actually had begun and had yielded results. His reasoning was that he did not want to unduly excite the population about the possibility of oil in St Lucia, in the event the search should prove negative.”

Evidently Huntley had forgotten the exploratory diggings at Soufriere’s Sulphur Springs that many had hoped would deliver geothermal energy in quantities sufficient to end our electricity problems and turn our country into a magnet for rich foreign entrepreneurs. That the dream never materialized was a disappointment but hardly enough to generate island-wide chaos. Obviously, Saint Lucians can handle truth, even when accompanied by disappointment.

The prime minister had also authorized Huntley “to keep all correspondence relating to the project,” Huntley revealed. “Consequently, after I left the ministry on a posting to New York as ambassador to the UN, I retained the files and have continued to date to be the contact between Grynberg Petroleum and the government of St Lucia and St Lucia’s coordinator of the project.”  Have the documents been turned over to the government? If so, how is the government to tell it has received everything in Huntley’s secret file?
Under the agreement with Kenny Anthony, according to Huntley, “Grynberg pays St. Lucia US$19,000 a year for the right to explore for oil and gas in its waters, then details the distribution of resources in the event that oil is discovered and sold. Grynberg has consistently paid his fees on time since then. In September 2000, the prime minister Kenny Anthony agreed to a request by Grynberg to amend the original agreement to increase the area for exploration. According to Grynberg, based on ‘geographic triangulation we have established that St Lucia’s territory may well be greater than what the license provides.’ The September 8, 2000 amendment provides for an area of exploration of St Lucia of 31, 612 square miles.”

Imagine that: an American adventurer knows more about our nation’s “geographic triangulation” than does its prime minister. But then, as we shall see, geographic strangulations are what Grynberg is all about!

To sum up: Not only had Earl Huntley persuaded—on the flimsiest of hunches—a Saint Lucian prime minister to invest what potentially may be the nation’s most important resource in an American about whom he knew precious little, he had also caused the leaders of two sister islands to join him in his pursuit of the oily Grail. Not bad for a guy who admittedly knows zilch about oil exploration and quite likely knows not the difference between tar in the ocean and crude oil.

Several questions remain, at least for the moment, unanswered. Among them: Considering the genesis of the whole deal, not to say Huntley’s secrecy oath, should his published account be considered holey writ? Did Kenny Anthony keep from his Cabinet and parliament what he and Earl Huntley had undertaken in the name of the people of Saint Lucia? Does any of this remind of the only recently disclosed secrets of Rochamel-Frenwell? Why does Jack Grynberg, in his correspondence, refer to Earl Huntley as “my associate?” Was a finder’s fee involved? Did Huntley have personal interest in the so-called Dauphin oil project? But then, we’ll come to all of that in time. As I write, the now opposition leader Kenny Anthony is keeping his twice-postponed promise to let the nation in on the facts behind “allegations by a trio of ministers.” My take on that, next time around.

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