Sandals Resorts International said they are condemning defamatory attacks Prime Minister
Gaston Browne continues to direct at their company.
The Prime Minister during a live radio interview on Five Radio Network and Cliff Hughes Nation Wide Radio Show in Jamaica in response to questions by the radio host, said that the company sought to avoid its tax obligations to the country and has acted inimical to the interest of the people of Antigua and Barbuda, he says SRI was manipulating the Antiguan tax system for its own benefit, forcing the government to write off millions in taxes.
SRI claims The issue of a ‘write-off’ does not exist and that
ABST has always been includedwithin the all-inclusive package
as a component and Sandals has never withheld any taxes
legally due and payable.
They said 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.
In 2000, the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding
which granted the company relief from the Hotel Tax and Guest Levy
in exchange for constructing 100 new rooms, after the Hotel Tax
and Guest Levy was replaced by the ABST, SRI which has been
operating in Antigua since 1991, entered into an agreement
with the UPP administration in 2009 to only pay 35% of
the ABST collected on room rates which the government
chose to rescind in 2016.
PM Browne in a statement in 2016 said that the government
has all right to renegotiate the inequitable agreement.
In July 2017, Sandals announced it was closing for 5 months
which was later shortened to 3 months, which the Prime Minister
said that the decision to close the hotel for such a long
period was an act of hostility in response to the government
rescinding their concessions.
The SRI CEO Adam Stewart who accused the PM of having a
vendetta against Butch Stewart is now crying foul because
the government has chosen not to honour the concession
agreement and claims there is no tax write off and
the company was given legally binding concessions.
The Prime Minister on the live radio broadcast on the Nation Wide
radio show said that Sandals was killing the local taxi business
by using a fleet of luxury vehicles to ferry guests instead of seeing
to it that local taxi drivers got that business.
PM Browne in a recent statement said that the government would like
to implement a policy of entrepreneurial socialism which would see
the government holding stakes in hotel developments in the country.
SRI in an aggressive press release issued on November 1st,
stated that the Prime Minister (Gaston Browne) should be
reminded that as in all things, stepping outside the law has its
consequences. Meanwhile, Sandals CEO Adam Stewart in a
separate statement said Gaston Browne must prepare himself to
face the lawsuit of lawsuits.