British businessman sneaks out of St Vincent amid criminal charges

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

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KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC) — Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves Monday said that British-born businessman, Dave Ame, did not leave St Vincent and the Grenadines illegally last month, although he left after he was summoned to appear in court to answer several criminal charges.


Gonsalves, who is also national security minister, told a news conference that Ames left the country by boat via the Chateaubelair Port — a port of entry and exit.


Citing a report from the chief immigration officer, Gonsalves said that Ames left "for Martinique or somewhere".


Gonsalves told the media that he suspects that the authorities know where Ames is, adding, "but individuals are mobile".


The Crown has brought eight charges of tax evasion and theft against Ames and four tax evasion charges against his lawyer, Samuel Commissiong.


Ames is founder of Harlequin Hotels and Resorts, parent company of Buccament Bay Resort Ltd and Harlequin Property (SVG) Ltd. He left the island after he was summoned to appear in court to answer the charges.


The prosecution is alleging that Ames failed to pay over monies he collected in value added tax and pay as you earn tax withdrawn from the wages of his staff.


Prime Minister Gonsalves told reporters that Ames "wasn’t allowed to leave the State" insisting that Ames, a naturalised citizen, did not leave the country illegally.


"So, he actually left legitimately. But there was no watch put at any port in respect of him going, because he was just charged and he was to come to the court," Gonsalves said, adding that if the court had issued a warrant for Ames, that warrant would have been placed at all ports of entry or exit.


An arrest warrant was issued after Ames failed to appear in court, as Commissiong did.


Gonsalves said he is waiting to see what the law enforcement authorities will be doing to get Ames to come to the island to answer the charges.


Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace said that the situation surrounding Ames is another indication of the Government’s "incompetence".


Speaking on his weekly radio programme on Monday, Eustace said that Ames is now a fugitive who not only owes money to the State, but several local businesses as well.


Eustace said that he had written to Buccament Bay Resort on behalf of a number of persons owed by the company, including a pineapple farmer owed EC$1,500 (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) for more than a year.


Eustace said the farmer was paid EC$500 after his letter.


"I wrote about other people down there but I remember this one in particular because the sum was so small and I thought it would have been easy for that farmer to get paid because the sum was so small," Eustace said.

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