At his party’s last convention the MP for the slum constituency of Vieux Fort South released to his ecstatic acolytes what must’ve sounded in their tuned ears like a verbal billet doux overflowing with love and devotion—whether or not also packed with enough anthrax to wipe out a roomful of party faithful. His transuding visage seemingly carved in marble, the non-consecutive three-time prime minister and party leader (currently he occupies neither office and is generally blamed for Humpty Dumpty’s great fall) referenced what is arguably this country’s most notorious scandal, possibly second only to IMPACS.
“They keep talking about Grynberg,” he barked. “Well I’ll soon have news about that . . . and a lot of them will be disappointed.” With this prime minister it had nearly always been his party versus them, whether by them he referred to Allen or Michael Chastanet or both. For me the prime minister’s words suggested good and bad news. Well aware am I that among our population are many (admittedly a dwindling number in the face of undeniable reality) who’ve never smelled anything noisome about the March 2000 transaction involving 83 million acres of Saint Lucia’s seabed, a notorious American oil speculator, an accommodating public servant and our then prime minister.
As is by now common knowledge, no other MP was privy to the arrangements, not even the governor general who alone has the legal authority to license local explorations.
Also well known is that Jack Grynberg, CEO of the contracting company RSM Corporation, having been informed in 2007 of Prime Minister Stephenson King’s decision to open to public bidding the area of seabed in contention, sued for breach of contract and damages to the tune of some USD$500 million the 2011 government of Saint Lucia, once again headed by Kenny Anthony. The matter came before the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes mere months after Anthony took office for the third time.
I wondered, when the prime minister fired his recalled convention rocket, whether his government’s lawyers had prevailed over RSM’s Jack Grynberg. If so, what wonderful news for citizens of Saint Lucia. I imagined control of the island’s seabed would be returned after close to eleven years to its rightful owners, as well as Grynberg having to pay the government related legal costs. Perhaps best of all, that the government would again be free to negotiate with other oil interests. I could not for the life of me think of a reason why a Saint Lucian might be disappointed to learn Grynberg had failed to impress the ICSID. Was the PM suggesting some of us had been counting on making the American oil tycoon US$500 million richer? One continues to wonder why the prime minister chose to titillate his fellow conventioneers rather than spill the goods on Grynberg.
Reportedly this is what had transpired: lawyers for the Saint Lucia government that had earlier represented Grenada against RSM’s Jack Grynberg successfully petitioned the ICSID to order the complainant to put down some $750,000 as security in advance of a determination. Grynberg stubbornly refused and the tribunal finally dismissed his petition without considering its merits.
A personal note: I’ve always been far more concerned with whether the deal that Kenny Anthony and RSM Corporation’s Jack Grynberg secretly entered into some 16 years ago was legal under Saint Lucia law. As earlier noted, it all happened behind a near impenetrable cloud of secrecy; by Earl Huntley’s Anthony-endorsed published accounts, the former UN Ambassador (especially famous for his leading role in the Helenites Building horror story) was instructed by the PM himself to keep to himself all documents related to the oil deal that finally came before the ICSID.
The people of this country need to know a lot more than we do about our former PM’s introduction to the infamous Jack Grynberg. How did the American gain secret access to the then prime minister? Why the ordered secrecy? If the governor general, as she has said, did not issue an exploration license to RSM then who did? What precisely is the current situation? Has control of the seabed been returned to the Saint Lucia government? Has Grynberg’s contract been rendered null and void? Is the matter scheduled to come before another tribunal? How much has the whole matter cost this nation’s taxpayers—and are we likely to be forking out more before our seabed is returned to local control?
Some among the local legal flock, admittedly not an eagle among them, have suggested somewhat offhandedly that the matter cannot be pursued, on the basis it is statute limited. Are they correct? Does that mean a secretly corrupt prime minister who somehow manages to get himself elected six consecutive times would be beyond prosecution if his abuses were discovered, say, two years after the people finally dumped him? And if such a crook-friendly law does in fact exist should it remain a day longer on our statute books?
As I write I am informed that over in the U.S. eagle-eyed officials at the FCPA have taken an interest in the RSM Corporation matter. The Foreign Corrupt Practice Act was instituted in 1977 for the purpose of making it unlawful for certain classes of persons and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business. One way or another, I suspect we’ve not heard the last of Grynberg!