Cannonier crash lands after Jetgate
Craig Cannonier’s spell as Premier of Bermuda ended as spectacularly as it began with the notorious Jetgate affair.
Mr Cannonier resigned in May 2014, 17 months after his glorious General Election victory, when it was revealed a group of United States businessmen, including tycoon Nathan Landow, donated more than $300,000 to an election campaign group connected to the One Bermuda Alliance in 2012.
It had emerged that, a few months after the donation was made, Mr Cannonier and his business associate, Stephen DaCosta, along with Cabinet ministers Shawn Crockwell and Mark Pettingill, had flown to Washington on board Mr Landow’s private jet allegedly to discuss investment in the Club Med site in St George’s.
Michael Dunkley was sworn in the day after Mr Cannonier’s resignation, ending the shortest reign of any Bermuda premier.
Jetgate had been a constant thorn in the side for the OBA since allegations were first made in May 2013, but Mr Cannonier, Mr Pettingill and Mr Crockwell insisted for months that they had done nothing wrong in accepting the flight.
In February 2014, Progressive Labour Party leader Marc Bean alleged Mr Cannonier had told him he was in line to receive a bribe from a developer in exchange for a gaming licence; shadow finance minister David Burt further claimed Mr Cannonier had tried to bribe him in exchange for support over the plan to scrap a referendum on gaming.
Mr Cannonier responded by filing writs against the pair, and further antagonised the PLP by refusing to answer questions in the House of Assembly about his contact with Mr Landow’s representatives.
The Premier angrily dismissed allegations, published in a feature by independent journalist Ayo Johnson, that he struck a deal with Mr Landow in exchange for a $300,000 donation to the OBA.
Mr Bean questioned whether the funds were “part of some quid pro quo related to gaming or a casino licence”.
On May 14, as the OBA launched an investigation into Mr Johnson’s report, chairman Thad Hollis stated the party had never received any funds from Mr Landow or any of his known associates.
But two days later, Mr Landow told the Bermuda Sun that he and other businessmen had indeed contributed $300,000 to the OBA’s election campaign after meeting with Mr Cannonier.
The OBA’s MPs and party executive then spent most of a weekend at their Reid Street headquarters where they discussed inconsistencies in Mr Cannonier’s statements on Mr Landow.
On the evening of May 19, Mr Cannonier resigned, stating: “This controversy has called into question my integrity, my leadership and the confidence of my colleagues, the support of my party — threatening the good work of the Government going forward.
“Let me first say nothing illegal was done, but I accept there was a failure, over time, to be to be completely transparent.”
Three days later, Mr Pettingill resigned as Attorney-General to take a job with Clarien Bank; Mr Crockwell ignored the PLP’s calls for his resignation.
Two months later, Mr Hollis filed a report about the donation, which by now was said to be $350,000.
He said home affairs minister Michael Fahy was aware of the account into which it was donated, but added that it was not authorised by the established protocols of the OBA. Mr Fahy argued no Bermuda election law or party rules had been breached.
The money, Mr Hollis said, appeared to have been spent on grass-roots campaigning, but the account was unaudited, so he could rely only on reports of individuals. Four days after the report was published, Mr Hollis resigned.
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