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Cannonier had his heart in the right place, says Landow

US developer Nathan Landow

The businessman at the centre of the Jetgate row has expressed his surprise and sadness at the resignation of Premier Craig Cannonier.

Millionaire developer Nathan Landow told The Royal Gazette he had been impressed by Mr Cannonier when he met him on two occasions in 2012 and 2013, and claimed that “his heart and his head were in the right place”.

Speaking from his offices in Maryland yesterday, Mr Landow explained that he first met Mr Cannonier in the autumn of 2012, when he was the leader of the One Bermuda Alliance Opposition. The meeting was set up by Maryland-based political campaigner Derrick Green and resulted in a consortium of seven businessmen donating $300,000 to the OBA’s general election war chest “We were solicited by Derrick Green and we made a contribution based on the visit Mr Cannonier paid us in Washington,” Mr Landow said.

“He stopped in to tell us about himself, what he was about and what he planned to do if he was fortunate enough to get elected.

“We liked him a lot. He was very impressive. He had a very presidential way about him, had a fine appearance and made a good impression. Based on what he was saying — his plans for Bermuda — we went along with him.

“His main thrust was the importance of economic development. He said that there were many problems in Bermuda and his most important priority was jobs and getting people back to work. He said the best way to achieve that was through economic development and through opening up tourism again, which according to Mr Cannonier, had been slacking off.

“To be honest, we didn’t find any fault with him. I don’t think any of us had even been to Bermuda and we didn’t have any business interests there. But he said he wanted to make it easier for foreign investors to come Bermuda. He said the current regulations were too stringent and he wanted to loosen those rules up a bit. We discussed and we listened and we liked what we heard. His head and his heart were clearly in the right place.

“We felt by his pitch that he was speaking from the heart and that he was sincere. We just hoped that he was successful. He seemed like a good guy and was very impressive. Bermuda has a certain aura about it, it’s a very beautiful, sophisticated country but needed new leadership and we felt he might be a good leader.

“But nothing specific was presented — hell, he hadn’t been elected Premier at that point although that first meeting didn’t take place too far before the election, perhaps two or three months before.”

“We were instructed by Derrick Green to make out any payments to the campaign committee. Derrick Green was a representative of the campaign committee and while we didn’t question what his role was, clearly it was a very important one. We were told the funds were going to be used for a ‘get out the vote’ programme to encourage people to go to the polls. We have a similar thing in the US and we know it is very costly. Getting instructions from Derrick Green made sense to us.”

Mr Cannonier met with Mr Landow for a second meeting in March 2013, three months after he had been sworn in as Premier. He was accompanied on that trip by Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell and Attorney General Mark Pettingill. Also in the party was Stephen DaCosta, a manager at one of Mr Cannonier’s gas stations. The four flew to the Washington meeting on board Mr Landow’s private jet after the businessman said his team were unable to travel to the Island.

Asked about the presence of Mr DaCosta at the meeting, Mr Landow said: “Mr Cannonier came up with a few people and Steve was one of them. But he didn’t talk with us or anything — he just sat there. He’s a good-sized guy so you can’t miss him but he wasn’t involved in any discussions.”

Mr Landow said that hotel development was discussed at that second meeting, although he insisted that no deal was ever struck.

“One of the things he wanted to see happen was the development of a site for hotel use and some other opportunities that we might be interested in,” he said.

Mr Landow said he later received a Request For Proposal from the Bermuda Government to develop the former Club Med site.

But after discussing the potential of building a new resort on the Island, his group decided not to put in a bid.

“There was no follow-up from Bermuda,” he added.

“It’s sad that he had to resign. From what I understand, the Opposition party started snapping at his heels and they didn’t handle questions about the trip very well.

“I think that may be down to the fact that, while Mr Cannonier is obviously smart enough, he didn’t have the political experience.

“He was trying to help Bermuda and in the end, so were we. It’s a shame he felt he had to step down. We hope that we didn’t have anything to do with it.”