Photo Credit: Melissa Edwards/BVI Platinum News
The government is having difficulties locating officials from BVI Airways to recoup the $7.2M of tax payers’ money, which was pumped into the airline's startup operations. The airline service never took off.
This information was disclosed by Junior Minister of Tourism and Government Member, Hon. Archibald Christian, during a sitting of the House of Assembly yesterday afternoon, July 10.
Further, Hon. Christian said that government should have invested that money into local airline, VI Airlink, which is owned by the Brathwaites.
"...You know if I knew what I know now, I would have taken that money and given it to the Brathwaites, because I know where I would find the Brathwaites. I don't know where I could find the people that have BVI Airways anymore," the government backbencher said.
He continued, "We are trying to locate them, trying to have a conversation with them, we are trying to get a report from them. We now have to consider legal action against them; that's most unfortunate."
Hon. Christian said that it is money that government needs in wake of the recovery process, and "$7.2M that we could do with right now. So that we can get our roads fixed, schools reopened."
In October last year, government had given BVI Airways a formal notification of breach, regarding the controversial agreement to provide direct flights between the BVI and Miami.
"I suppose the Premier (Hon. Dr. D. Orlando Smith) would continue to do his best. I know that he is not going to give up on it because at the end of the day he has to report back to the people of the BVI on exactly what has happened to the $7.," he said in the presence of Premier Smith.
"I would like to know how they spent the money Premier. What did they do with it?" Hon. Christian asked.
The Junior Minister mentioned Air BVI, which he said BVI owned years ago, pointing out that the government back then should have fought to save it.
"We had Air BVI, our own airline and I think that was a mistake when the government didn't step in to try and save that airline. And then in our wisdom, we decided to allow BVI Airways to be the flag carrier for the Territory with direct flights to Miami."
He said, "We gave them $7.2M of tax payers’ money and we have no airline to show for it, no aircraft; can't get the people to the Territory in a manner in which we want to get them."
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
Hon. Christian said governments need to be very cautious when doing business with foreign companies.
"We have to be honest with ourselves, whenever we are striking and making deals with foreign entities, we have to be extremely careful. We have to dot all Is and cross all our Ts. And sometimes if you have to dot the I several times so be it," he warned.
Premier Smith during his wrap up response in the House of Assembly, addressed all issues raised my Members, including other issues by Hon. Christian, but did not touch on BVI Airways.
Opposition Leader, Hon. Andrew Fahie, who raised red flags about the agreement from the inception, has since termed the entire matter as a scam.