Back in October 2015 Grenada’s Prime Minister Mr. Keith Mitchell revealed that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had promised to assist his island in “developing potential that may exist in its oil and gas sector.” By official account, during a bilateral meeting the Venezuelan leader had advised Mitchell “Caracas and St. Georges should not delay on this initiative.” Maduro was quoted as saying: “We can work together on this. I entrust the foreign minister to form a team to begin dialogue with St. Georges. Let us move as quickly as possible. We have much experience in oil and gas.”
The published account revealed new talks between Grenada and Venezuela would focus on “boundary delimitation” following initial discussion on the issue some years ago. Mitchell acknowledged the “necessity or delimitation of our boundaries so we can access the resources, as Venezuela has been able to do. We want to advance this as soon as possible because there are serious resources to be accessed when this happens.” The Grenada prime minister was at the time also chair of the OECS authority.
Then there was the island’s former energy minister Gregory Bowen. He had advised Maduro that “positive discussions on the boundary delimitation had begun a few years ago with the late president Hugo Chavez.” With the great friendship between their countries, Bowen had reminded Maduro, “It should easily be accomplished. Our big brother has the knowledge and the capacity to help us.”
Fast forward to October 19, 2017 when the Jamaica Observer reported that the island’s prime minister had confirmed the discovery of natural gas within Grenada’s territorial waters and was awaiting the results of tests to determine whether the reserves could be monetized. Mitchell was quoted as saying: “The findings are being tested for quality.” Earlier in the year his government had issued an exploration license to Global Petroleum Group, based in Russia.
A twice shy Mitchell told reporters: “A finding is one thing, but the quality is what will make a difference. I cannot and will not count my chickens before my eggs have hatched.”
Some twenty years ago, in July 1996, the Grenada government had entered into an oil-exploration agreement with the U.S. energy company RSM Production Corporation, whose CEO is Denver, Colorado native Jack Grynberg. Just two weeks after inking the contract RSM invoked—on the basis of unsubstantiated boundary disputes—its force majeure clause. Following countless setbacks involving sister territories, and much embarrassment to the Grenada government (including bribery allegations), Grynberg first attempted to mollify the accused then unsuccessfully sued for breach of contract. The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes administered the arbitration. The contract was voided and the contending parties required to pay their own legal expenses—millions of dollars that the Grenada people could ill afford.
How curious that the Saint Lucia media have given sparse coverage to the latest good news from similarly cash-strapped Grenada. Yes, curious, considering our shared history with Jack Grynberg. Not long after taking office in 1997 Prime Minister Kenny Anthony had entered into an agreement with the American oilman that remained an absolute secret for close to ten years! It would emerge that some six months following the signing Grynberg had invoked its force majeure clause, as he had in the Grenada matter, based on ostensible boundary disputes. Grynberg had also successfully demanded from Saint Lucia’s prime minister certain self-serving amendments to the contract they signed in 2000.
When the Stephenson King government assumed office in 2006 and soon afterward notified Grynberg that it considered his arrangement with the previous administration null and void, and intended to offer other interested parties the opportunity to explore our seabed, Grynberg invoked his force majeure clause and threatened to sue. For reasons still conjectural, he waited until Kenny Anthony returned to office in 2011 before carrying out his threat—a story broken by this newspaper and finally confirmed by a backdated government press release.
The breach of contract suit remains up in the air. Grynberg—whose RSM, according to a 2014 government press release, has “a history of non-payment of costs awarded against it,” has refused repeatedly to place in an account US$750,000 as a guarantee perchance his suit should prove unsuccessful. The oilman’s appeal is expected to be heard this year. For seventeen years the Saint Lucia government has had no control over the area of seabed involved in the breach of contract lawsuit. Meanwhile the Allen Chastanet government seems reluctant to bring up in the House the matter before the ICSID, despite scarce money being paid out of the Consolidated Fund to foreign lawyers contracted by the Anthony administration.
The governor general Dame Pearlette Louisy, who alone is authorized under the Minerals (Vesting) Act to grant exploration permits, has let it be known she has never met Jack Grynberg, and has no knowledge of how he acquired a license to explore some 83 million acres of Saint Lucia’s seabed. Parliamentarians on both sides of the House have said as much, usually in privacy—since the matter that apparently began soon after Kenny Anthony took office in 1996 has never been tabled in parliament. In the meantime, and according to the former prime minister Stephenson King, over the years several offers from oil exploration companies had to be sacrificed because their owners wished to avoid confrontations with the notoriously litigious gentleman from Denver, Colorado!