Deher said during Mingo’s tenure as CEO of the Harbour Group of Companies there have been “too many bizarre deals, settlements and issues that question the motives and legalities of the chief executive’s decisions. The evidence that I’ve seen and now presented to the Council of Ministers indicate that there is ample reason for Government to launch a thorough investigation to determine if our country’s best interests are being compromised.”
During the presentation Deher provided the Council of Ministers with a brief history on the Dock Maarten Project dating back to 1977, when Dock Maarten’s founder Michael Deher first took possession of a parcel of property by way of long lease from Government to build the Great Bay Marina – now known as Dock Maarten.
A large part of the presentation focused on correspondence over the past two decades between Dock Maarten, Government and the Harbour Group of Companies offering what Brian Deher says is evidence that the Harbour’s CEO and other members of the executive team, including its then managing director, knew about Dock Maarten’s plans from as early as 2002, and they had no objection to these plans.
The information that Dock Maarten presented to the Council of Ministers, Deher said, sheds light on “the real motives” of Mingo’s aggressive action against Dock Maarten’s marina expansion project. “All correspondence between parties clearly prove that the Harbour Group of Companies had no objection to Dock Maarten’s project until after the Harbour purchased property on the north side of Dock Maarten from Bobby Velasquez.
“By purchasing long lease land from Bobby Velasquez, the Harbour gained control of property on both sides of Dock Maarten and could start the process of squeezing it out of business. Because the Harbour’s new development plans conflicted with Dock Maarten’s plans, which were previously approved by Government and acknowledged by the Harbour, Mr. Mingo chose to take Dock Maarten to court three times to try to stop the marina expansion,” Brian Deher said on Tuesday.
“The Harbour lost all three court cases against Dock Maarten as Dock Maarten has legal title to all water and land rights and an approved building permit from Government. Of great interest to Dock Maarten is how the Harbour’s CEO Mark Mingo can justify their legal action against Dock Maarten when they have taken no action against Bobby’s Marina who has been developing and expanding for many years without legal title to any water rights and without the necessary building permits.”
During the presentation, Deher said he focused on the real estate deals that the Harbour has recently engaged in “the large losses incurred by the Harbour in the Zebec settlement and the questionable methods used to acquire property from Bobby Velasquez certainly force one to question the ethics and legalities under which Mr. Mingo manages a company wholly owned by Country St. Maarten. Under the best case scenario Mr. Mingo made a huge mistake in the Zebec case costing the Harbour over US $10 million to settle.”
Deher went on to say that “people certainly can and do make mistakes, it’s just that most of us are held accountable for our mistakes; especially mistakes that are as costly and questionable as the ones made by Mr. Mingo.
“The fact that executives of the Harbour are allowed to keep the details of what really transpired hidden from the Government and the people of St. Maarten by using non-disclosure agreements is not only insulting to the honest and hardworking people of this country, but also unheard of in the normal world of business. How is it possible that the board and management of a company can withhold pertinent information on questionable issues from its shareholders,” Deher asked.
“It’s very clear to me that there are enough issues regarding the Harbour Group of Companies that indicate that there is a well-planned, methodical strategy in use by those that control the Harbour to isolate as much of the Holding’s free cash flow as possible, and use it for reasons that may or may not be in the best interest of Country St. Maarten. One thing is for sure: whatever is going on up there is not transparent and legitimate enough for Mr. Mingo to feel comfortable discussing it; at least, not without the protection of non-disclosure agreements.”
Deher expressed hope that government will “pull back the veil of secrecy” over the management and operations of not just the Harbour Group of Companies and its executives, but all government-owned companies and thus set a precedent that St. Maarten, its people, businesses and government operate in a transparent and legal manner that serves the best interests of everyone.