ABIA former chairman says accusations that UPP lost millions on title transfer for Azure Bay Project are lies


McChesney “Mack” Emanuel, former Chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority (ABIA), is rubbishing claims that the United Progressive Party Administration (UPP) gave away millions in title-transfer fees on the Azure Bay Project.

Emanuel dismisses accusations made in Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s affiliated newspaper as lies and excrement, and he says there was no loss to taxpayers.

In response to public criticism that the Western Imperial Special Economic Zone (WISEZ) deal is a wholesale giveaway, Browne and his supporters have said the UPP Administration forfeited millions in title-transfer taxes on the Azure Bay project, and that it never yielded any benefit because it never came to fruition.

Negotiations with the private owners of the land did take place, former Minister of Finance Harold Lovell confirms. And the UPP Administration and the Azure Bay principals signed a Memorandum of Agreement for a major hotel and high-end residential project.

Concessions were offered by the ABIA, as was standard practice with all major investors.   However, the duration of those concessions was 25 years.

“I was chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Authority when the Azure Bay project … was reviewed and its viability assessed,” Emanuel .

“The project did not materialize due to internal issues with investors which had nothing to do with us. There was no cost incurred by taxpayers,” he says, and “the project was eventually shelved.”

Another criticism levelled at the WISEZ deal signed by PM Browne is that his Administration has learned nothing from the failure of its first agreement for a Special Economic Zone with the YIDA Group.

“During my time at the ABIA, we were not in the business of approving non-viable, speculative and shady projects,” Emanuel says of the YIDA project.

The former Chairman says it was “reviewed and rejected by the ABIA for not having a comprehensive business plan, market study and proof of source of funds.

“Also, due diligence on the group did point to some issues, which I will not mention here. Suffice to say, the Chinese Embassy in Antigua did not want to have anything to do with the YIDA Group and their project,” Emanuel says.

In his opinion, the new WISEZ deal is “another bogus project to raise campaign finance” and “nothing more than a scheme to raise money for the next election.”

If the Antigua Labour Party were to win the upcoming general elections, Emanuel warns, “the asset will be flipped without any benefit to Antigua and Barbuda.  All the concessions granted will be transferred without any benefit to the people,” he says.

The deal inked by PM Browne accords tax-free status to the investors for the life of the Zone, as well as gives it the right to establish its own port and customs facilities.

Further, it removes any oversight or approval authority from the local Department of the Environment and the Development Control Authority (DCA), and guarantees approval of long-term work permits to any personnel the investors decide to import.

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  1. Wait in one breathe he says they don’t deal with speculative investments then then he admits the project they approved failed. Then there was the chicken farm (Zacky related) that failed. The brother (CEO of Zacky Farms) of one off the key persons predicted the failure, pointed out the guy was essentially con man. Yet Lovel n George pushed the project. Guy the lands (Azure Bay Project) were transferred and the requisite taxes as per your agreement (MOA) were not paid. Claiming a known fact is not true simply makes you a liar.

  2. If the project never happened why would the land be transferred? Is it that the land was transferred and the investors failed to deliver? Let’s see the land transfer document. If fees were waived let’s see who really benefitted. Let’s look at names and dates.

  3. Nothing hides forever.
    When the sun rises the Vampires scatter and go back into hiding but lay in it’s wake is the trail of enrichment,deceit, lies/dishonesty

  4. This man has ZERO CREDIBILITY. Hiding behind his dual citizenship pretending to run for elections knowing full well he was a smoke screen. #BlueChickenFarm

  5. As soon as anybody say anything about the labour government, the bats come out of the caves to devour the fruits. Why don’t you bats go back in your caves to be devoured by the snakes?


  6. If you guys think we are going to sit down and allow you guys to spread all the lies without being challenged, you have another thing coming. I will not let the PM alone fight the fight. Lester Bird thought not to bother with that until people started to really believe that he had an affair with a minor. But then the damage was done already, and he was voted out of office. The 2004 election was won based on lies. The 2009 election was stolen, and 2014 you guys got a whipping and in 2018 you got a shellacking. And 2023 will be a whitewash.

  7. You ALP apologists are a bunch of unpatriotic idiots. Rather than engage in character assassination, use your brains that God gave to you. One project was structured to include significant benefits for the citizens while the other was a boilerplate full of bullshit copied from the failed Yida project. Azure Bay project died because the investors had 24 months to perform, they didn’t, the concessions were rescinded as stated in the MOA. That’s competence and leadership, not like the unpatriotic and incompetent idiot Gaston Browne who gave concessions to last until Jesus comes and with no performance clause. Browne signed a document that makes no mention of the capital investment amount, number jobs to be created etc. Only an idiot would sign such a document. How do you grant concessions without first knowing how much is being invested? As for the chicken farm, the record shows that the ABIA advised the cabinet in writing to close negotiations when the investors failed to disclose source of funding. Again, leadership, competence and patriotism. If you can’t, read, compare and contrast, which you should have learnt in 6th grade, you are hopeless!!

    • Let me suggest you take the time to read the tourism and special incentive act for guidance regarding local investments. The SEZ act is the bible for SEZ’s. You want us to learn From Lovell and crew how to do concessions. They are really a lesson in how not to. Million in tx payers moneys gone, nothing to show for it

  8. In the case of YIDA, what do they have to show? What have they delivered in 7 years. If nothing has been produced/delivered there is nothing to tax. I guess that’s one way of measuring progress by saying nothing from nothing leaves nothing.

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