Sandals answers prime minister radio remarks

Prime Minister Gaston Browne with Chairman of Sandals Resorts International Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart(second left) and Chief Executive Officer of Sandals Adam Stewart (second right) at the 35th meeting of Heads of State & Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). (Photo from JIS. File photo)

(Press Release)

Sandals Resorts International condemns in the strongest possible manner, the vicious, sustained and defamatory attacks that Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne continues to direct at this company.

The Prime Minister’s latest salvo came during the current affairs programme Nationwide at Five Radio Network in Jamaica on November 1, 2017…where he again made false claims that Sandals sought to avoid its tax obligations, and has acted inimical to the interests of the people of Antigua and Barbuda.

Nothing could be further from the truth, but the Prime Minister has demonstrated time and again that he has no interest in the truth.

Sandals Grande Antigua is the flagship hotel of Antigua and Barbuda. Over the past 25 years we have been and continue to be the most significant contributor to the economy (XCD$93 million in 2016), we are the leading earner of foreign exchange and the highest private sector employer. Sandals is unmatched in marketing Antigua and Barbuda throughout the world, while its citizens benefit from Sandals’ world renowned training and development programmes including access to the Sandals Corporate University. We are proud to boast that Sandals Grande Antigua has some of the very best staff members in the industry, the vast majority of whom are local and who have been with the company since inception.

Communities throughout Antigua and Barbuda benefit from the programmes of the Sandals Foundation, and only recently, following the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma, Chairman Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart personally donated XCD$150,000 to relief efforts in Barbuda – ironically, even that was ungraciously lambasted by Prime Minister Browne as “insufficient”. But that has been his attitude since 2016, when Prime Minister Browne and his administration, in clear breach of a proper and legally binding agreement, abolished the concessions granted under the previous government and signed by Finance Minister Errol Cort.

The fact is that in March 2000 Sandals, under Prime Minister Lester Bird’s Administration, signed a Memorandum of Understanding which granted the company relief from the Hotel Tax and Guest Levy in exchange for constructing 100 new rooms. Not only did Sandals keep its word to the people of Antigua and Barbuda, we exceeded our obligations by almost doubling the number of rooms and suites to180 at significant additional investment. This included adding tremendous facilities such as a brand new conference centre and restaurants to the resort. In doing so we also increased employment by the addition of 120% more staff members who enjoy some of the highest compensation packages in the Caribbean.

After the Hotel Tax and Guest Levy was replaced by the Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST), the then government, in 2009, with the sole purpose of ensuring that Sandals as the most significant investor on the island was not to be prejudiced by the introduction of the ABST, granted Sandals compensatory relief from a portion of the ABST in order to maintain the value of the original concession benefits.

Since then Sandals has continued to fullfil its tax obligations in a timely manner and as a responsible stakeholder in Antigua and Barbuda. Our auditors have been top tier international companies such as PriceWaterhouse and most recently Grant Thornton, as well as the government agencies themselves, and there has NEVER, we repeat NEVER, been any issue regarding Sandals’ compliance with its tax obligations including that of ABST.

The Prime Minister is aware of all of this, yet seems intent on maintaining his ill-conceived campaign of defamation against Sandals and its Chairman, both inside and outside of parliament. He either does not comprehend, or is intentionally and maliciously misleading the public regarding the computation of the ABST, claiming that his government has ‘written off’ XCD$100 million. The issue of a ‘write-off’ does not exist. The fact is that ABST has always been included within the all-inclusive package as a component thereof. There is no question of Sandals ever withholding any taxes legally due and payable, and therefore there is nothing for the government to ‘write off’. The tax has been computed exactly as it was written in the concession agreement granted to Sandals in order to achieve the level of development that you can see there today on Dickenson Bay.

Sandals has done its best to keep the peace, however PM Browne should be reminded that as in all things, stepping outside the law has its consequences. It is unfortunate that Prime Minister Browne and his government have failed to attract any new investment of significance in the tourism sector, since no major project has broken ground recently despite several promises. However we do not believe we should have to suffer for that. One would think that with the challenges facing the Caribbean following the passage of two devastating hurricanes the Prime Minister would spend his time in a more constructive manner, as we have done, in reaching out to the marketplace…working alongside, rather than against us, to help promote the region and build Antigua and Barbuda’s tourism product.

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  1. U see there is 2 side of every story i believe what gordon butch stewart said about sandal pay they tax u see gaston brown he and his fail goverment stop pressure sandal and go bring new investor as u promise were is all them investor u promise us before the election

  2. Why does Sandals think they should be entitled to hold on to monies that belong to the gov’t??? Even the common man has to pay ABST at the supermarket. What makes them think they are “special”??? Butch needs to stop acting like a “butch” and comply with the law.

  3. Sandals should stick to running their hotel,paying their taxes and contractors on time and desist from the tactics of bullying small island states, similar confusion in turks and caicos, Grenada nown Antigua.we all know how they already dictate to the Jamaican government but don’t expect everyone to bow down to you .

  4. People that do not know what’s going on in Antigua,need to stop listening to substance less Harold Lovell, Sandals management are bullies,let them abide by our rules or GYPG. After all 90% of its employees are Jamaican’s so he will be hurting his own people.People like Lovell needs to be exiled,that guy is literally dangerous to this country.He is a liar a hypocrite and a wonderful performer with absolutely no dam substance.


  6. he pays these people penny and he creams off of the top so much more ,these people building hotels all over and the government not making enough money the Caribbean islands is the brand here not sandals hotels uses the islands people want to vacation in the Caribbean..

  7. With how people can get sued. I know our prime minister is wise enough not to make comments he is not certain of.

  8. Harold Lovell and the entire former UPP cabinet need to come to the people of this country and explain why they broke the law and gave Butch Stewart compensatory relief hence creating an unlevelled playing field for other stakeholders. The ABST has been instituted by law, which means Harold and his colleagues have broken the law. The Stewarts and those who are doing their bidding on Observer radio are obviously either uneducated or just being plain irresponsible…… because there is a deed of release and settlement of claim court document that supports PM
    Browne’s claim of a write off. This official court document was signed and sealed by the Principals of Sandals Resorts Int’l, Adrew E Holm, Steven Carey and John Lawrence as Directors of the Sandals Resorts Int’l company. Wha happen Antigua people nah read and so?

  9. ……and please dont let me start about Misick in the Turks and Caicos hush money……Lovell and his colleagues might have to be on the run soon soon soon.

  10. Look who tries to sell themselves as all honest. They signed an agreement with the government to built start construction on a hotel here in 2014, yet nothing. Stewart then promised to start construction in early 2015, yet nothing. Should not surprise us since this is the same group who paid a 12 million fee due in order to settle bribery allegations involving the former Premeir of Turks and Caicos (see ). The group claimed one of their top level employees did it without the chairman’s knowledge. People should ask themselves why Stewart tends to push either for new contracts or to renegotiate old ones near elections. The illegal ABST waiver signed Jan 20, by the then minister happened mere weeks before the election gong sounded in early February 2009.

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