Walton Brown statement
Fronting losses estimated at $40m
An estimated $40 million in fees has been lost as a result of fronting land purchases by non-Bermudians, MPs were told yesterday.
The sale of about 120
properties are under investigation.
Walton Brown, the Minister ofHome Affairs, told the House of Assembly that the Attorney-General’s Chambers is helping with inquiries and an amnesty period was now at an end.
He said: “We are acting now, and people who have not approached the Government in an effort to regularise will be approached.”
Mr Brown said the unpaid cash dated back ten years, before 2007 changes to the law cracked down on cheating over land licences.
He emphasised that not all properties on file were fronting arrangements.
But he warned that non-Bermudians who broke the law would be prosecuted on the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions to claw back some of the unpaid millions.
Fronting, the use of a Bermudian as cover for non-Bermudians to acquire property or land, became an offence under 2007 immigration amendments.
But the law was criticised as too harsh on Bermudians married to foreigners, and licensing requirements for local spouses were rolled back in 2012.
Mr Brown said that some questionable deals had been given a long grace period — first under a three-year amnesty after 2007.
He added that in 2010 there was a “further two-year period of abeyance to allow people to comply, that led to 2012”.
MPs queried what had happened to the file of names and land assessment numbers over the five years since.
Asked by this newspaper, Mr Brown replied: “All I can say it it’s a matter for my ministry to focus upon and resolve.”
Mr Brown said the law was clear on the amount of acreage that could be held by non-Bermudians.
Earlier, Progressive Labour Party MP Derrick Burgess told the House of Assembly he had raised the issue in Parliament “years ago, and was told it was ready to go to the Attorney-General’s chamber”.
Mr Brown told MPs that the file had “sat in the Department of Immigration”, while Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Leader of the Opposition, queried “whether the information I got, that the file couldn’t be found, emanated from the technical officers”.
The minister replied: “Anyone who makes a statement has to stand by his or her words. I wouldn’t want to pass responsibility to the technical officers.”
Opposition MPs asked how many cases had been brought by the Attorney-General.
Mr Brown told them that he would try to find out the answer.
He added: “I will say that the perpetrators were either required to pay fines or relinquish property.”
The new crackdown is part of a plan unveiled this month by Mr Brown as the “next wave of changes to immigration policies and procedures”.
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