Silence from tech firm on Burt’s claims

  • No comment: Mike Richards, a Guernsey-based lawyer with links to a well-known online sports betting firm, decided to not operate his data analytics company in Bermuda (Photograph from Ogier.com)

    No comment: Mike Richards, a Guernsey-based lawyer with links to a well-known online sports betting firm, decided to not operate his data analytics company in Bermuda (Photograph from Ogier.com)


A Guernsey-based lawyer with links to a well-known online sports-betting firm was tight-lipped yesterday about the reason his data analytics company pulled out of Bermuda.

Mike Richards did not answer telephone calls or respond to e-mails asking him to confirm claims made by David Burt, the Premier, in Parliament on Friday about the company’s decision not to “move forward in setting up an office” on the island.

Mr Burt alleged, during a motion to adjourn speech, that a Page 11 story in the business section of The Royal Gazette about an international algorithmic trading company seeking to hire six Bermudians as “sports-trading operators” was to blame.

The article contained information from an advertisement posted on the Department of Workforce Development’s Bermuda Job Board and quoted Mr Richards as saying: “We’re not one that wants stories being written about us. We don’t advertise our brand.”

The Premier said business people seeking to invest in Bermuda should not be subjected to media scrutiny.

Mr Burt told MPs: “It is simple. In 2019, business people have choices and they will choose a jurisdiction where the press recognises that if private business want to keep their affairs private, they have a right to do so.”

The Premier did not respond to a series of questions about his speech yesterday, including a query about which “right” he was referring to. He declined to provide evidence for any of the allegations made during his parliamentary speech.

A government spokeswoman said: “Premier stands by his comments.”

Exempt companies incorporated in Bermuda don’t have to make public their true ownership, although they do have to share that information with the Bermuda Monetary Authority, which carries out due diligence checks.

The Royal Gazette is not aware of any law that prevents the media from reporting facts about businesses based here, including who owns them, if the information is known.

Mr Burt described Mr Richards as a “principal” of a newly incorporated company in Bermuda, which planned to rent 2,000 sq ft of office space on Pitts Bay Road, employ six Bermudians, move executives from other countries to live here and “staff up to 20 people over the next two years”.

The February 11 article did not name the company and nor did the Premier.

A search at the Registrar of Companies shows an exempt firm called GTL Atlantic Limited registered here on January 21, with its principal business being given as “data analytics”.

Its registered office was given as Zobec Services in Hamilton, which specialises in trustee, corporate and accounting services, and lawyer Zoe Hanson was listed as its provisional director.

Ms Hanson did not respond to calls or an e-mail yesterday.

Mr Richards, whose e-mail address contains the words “GTL” and “Group”, previously worked at offshore law firms Ogier and Appleby.

He has been Called to the Bar in England and Wales, and in the British Virgin Islands.

His wife, Stephanie Eddy-Richards, is head of international markets at Betway Group, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Betway describes itself as a “leading provider of first-class entertainment across sports betting, online casino, bingo, e-sports and poker” and at the “forefront of the online gambling industry utilising the very latest technologies”. It wasn’t possible to reach anyone at Betway for comment.

Mr Burt, in his speech, attacked the reporter responsible for the February 11 story. The Premier, like all parliamentarians, is protected from any legal challenge for defamatory words because of the absolute privilege provided by the Parliament Act 1957. The Premier told the House that the Bermuda Business Development Agency was involved in helping the company set up on the island and described the “disappointment felt in the voice” of its business development manager, Kevin Richards, the son of former One Bermuda Alliance deputy premier Bob Richards.

Kevin Richards declined to comment and referred questions to Rosemary Jones, the BDA’s head of communications and marketing.

Ms Jones also declined to comment, as did Kelly Francis, of recruitment firm Performance Solutions, which posted the job advertisement.

Ewart Brown, a former premier, waded into the issue this week with a comment on The Royal Gazette’s website.

Posting beneath an editorial about Mr Burt’s speech, and in response to another online commenter, Dr Brown wrote: “Since I seem to be on your mind, allow me to remind you that we not only ‘lashed out’ at the RG, we cut off advertising which was worth about a million dollars. To feed those who would destroy you is one example of suicide.”

The Government announced it would stop advertising with The Royal Gazette in March 2008, after the newspaper launched a campaign for freedom of information.

Global press freedom groups criticised the decision and wrote to Dr Brown urging him to reconsider the “politically motivated” move.

Dr Brown, who subsequently brought public access to information legislation to Parliament, claimed it was a cost-cutting exercise.

He declined to comment yesterday.

Opposition leader Craig Cannonier said on Tuesday the Premier’s speech was an “act of desperation” by “someone who knows they are sitting in the ‘last-chance saloon’”.

He added: “Did the Premier step in to save the day with this company? Did he even try? What did he do?

“That is the story we all really want to hear, isn’t it? That’s the story I want to hear and I want to hear it without the protection of parliamentary privilege.”

Unanswered questions

The Royal Gazette sent David Burt, the Premier, these questions about his motion to adjourn speech. He declined to answer them or provide evidence for any of the allegations he made in Parliament. A government spokeswoman said: “Premier stands by his comments”.

• What evidence is there that The Royal Gazette’s reporter “joined hands” with the Opposition or was “aided and abetted” by them in carrying out reporting for the February 11 story you referenced in Parliament?

• Can you point to any information that indicates this was the case?

• What evidence is there that the reporter acted with “clear malicious intent”?

• Can you provide any evidence of The Royal Gazette publishing “endless speculation, baseless questions and falsehoods” about fintech?

• Which article in The Royal Gazette stated that the Registrar of Companies and the Bermuda Monetary Authority no longer know how to conduct compliance checks?

• What is “brazen and unprofessional” about a reporter calling up a company which is advertising jobs on the island to find out more?

• How did the February 11 article show a “disregard for facts”?

• What, specifically, was inaccurate in the article?

• What right exists in Bermuda for a company’s affairs to “remain private”?

• Can you point to where this right is enshrined?

• Can you point to how the reporter breached this right in the interaction with the company principal and the subsequent story that appeared?

• What was “egregious” about the story, which stated that six jobs were being advertised and accurately quoted the company principal?

• Have you spoken directly to the principals of this company to determine why exactly they have pulled out of Bermuda?

• What did they tell you?

• You said politicians are “fair game” for scrutiny by the press but businesses seeking to invest in Bermuda should not be subjected to “such conduct”. Can you elaborate on what you meant by that?

• What kind of conduct do you mean?

• Why should journalists not call businesses to ask for information about them — and what code or right or law has been breached in publishing an article about such interactions?

• Is there anything about the article and the reporting that you feels breaches the Media Council’s Code of Practice?

• If so, please can you be specific about what the breach was?

• Do you think it was ethical to use parliamentary privilege to launch an attack on a journalist and make comments about that journalist which would be defamatory in any other forum — unless they could be proven to be true?

To view the Memorandum of Association of GTL Atlantic under the Companies Act 1981, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”

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Published Feb 21, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 21, 2019 at 2:56 pm)

Silence from tech firm on Burt’s claims

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