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Premier approved $800,000 loan to Blakey

An $800,000 government loan to an American music promoter to set up a recording studio in Dockyard was made “at the direction of the Premier”, a former Cabinet minister claimed yesterday.

Commentators on Twitter criticised David Burt, the Premier, and Jamahl Simmons, who was economic development minister when the loan was approved, for lending the money to Anthony Blakey and for a failure to dig deep enough into his background.

One user wrote: “We the people and creatives in the music industry in Bermuda need some answers. You have votes out here pending.”

Mr Simmons, who lost the economic development and tourism ministerial portfolio in November 2018, replied: “While this was a project performed at the Premier's direction and while there was due diligence performed by technical officers, I am going to do what most politicians won't — take responsibility. This should never have happened.”

Mr Blakey, of Atlanta, Georgia, was given the money in April 2018 by the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism to buy equipment to create the studio at historic Moresby House, on Pender Road, Sandys — but the studio never materialised and he did not pay back the money.

The loan was made to Mr Blakey and Danilee Trott, a Bermudian event planner who worked for him. They were trading as Savvy Entertainment Ltd, an exempted company which was soldely owned by Mr Blakey when it was incorporated in 2016.

The Government said yesterday that civil servants would meet police today to discuss the case.

A spokeswoman said earlier that lawyers hired by the Government had failed to find Mr Blakey in Georgia to serve him with a demand for payment and that it had “initiated the appropriate steps to engage both the local and US authorities regarding a criminal complaint as part of the recovery effort of these funds”.

The Royal Gazette asked the Premier last week if he proposed the Moresby House project to the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism.

A government spokeswoman said: “That information is incorrect.”

Mr Simmons said yesterday on Twitter that he did not know what had happened with Savvy after he lost his ministerial portfolio in late 2018.

He added: “All I know is that I am vexed that this has turned out this way.”

Mr Burt, also on Twitter, said: “It's important to note in this case that no one ‘gave' money to anyone. Money was loaned to a business [owned by a Bermudian and a non-Bermudian] with security.

“The loan was being paid and then fell behind, and action was taken in 2019 to recover the monies.”

Mr Burt defended the plan to create a recording studio and insisted that appropriate checks were performed — but admitted there had been flaws.

He said: “It's not a matter of trust. The reasoning for the project was sound, he had a Bermudian partner with a record of success, checks were performed, legal contracts drafted and the loan was made. Could it have been done better? In hindsight — absolutely, yes.”

Mr Burt also posted a link to an article in The Royal Gazette about Ms Trott's work on a Tall Ships event in 2017.

A government spokeswoman did not respond yesterday to questions about the security for the loan, which Bermudian co-owned the exempted company and whether the recording studio project was put out to tender.

She said: “Technical officers will meet with the Bermuda Police Service tomorrow on the matter and, as such, no further comment will be made.”

The comment came after the Bermuda Police Service said yesterday they had “received no such report to investigate this matter from Government”.

Records at the Registrar of Companies showed Mr Blakey as the owner of all shares in Savvy Entertainment — worth $12,000 — which was incorporated in September 2016.

The RoC's online directors' registry listed Mr Blakey and Keiva Maronie-Durham, of Amicus Services Ltd, as directors of Savvy Entertainment — but it is understood that Ms Maronie-Durham was engaged to register the company and she is not named on the incorporation paperwork as owning any shares.

Amicus Services is still listed at the RoC as Savvy's registered office as a new registered office form has not been filed with the RoC. The Government yesterday released a sworn affidavit from a process server who served a payment demand notice on Amicus Law Chambers on June 11 last year.

Ms Maronie-Durham did not respond to a request for comment by press time last night.

The Government also released a sworn affidavit about a payment-demand notice it served on Ms Trott on June 8 last year.

Ms Trott said she did not own any shares in Savvy, had not received any of the loan money and had not been served with a demand for payment.

She did not respond to a further question about the demand for repayment yesterday.

Ms Trott earlier told The Royal Gazette that Mr Blakey stopped responding to her calls, e-mails and texts in spring last year.

Several attempts were made to contact Mr Blakey before yesterday's story on Savvy was published, including by landline, mobile phone, e-mail and WhatsApp, but he did not respond.

He was reported to be working for a New York marketing company called NSF Management Group in June this year.

He also set up a $1 million GoFundMe page to raise money for a joint NSF/Savvy Rock Against Racism event in the United States.

The scheme raised only $1,120.

The same month, Savvy Entertainment Inc and Savvy Entertainment Youth Foundation Inc, run by Mr Blakey in Atlanta, were reinstated as a domestic profit corporation and a domestic non-profit corporation, respectively, in Georgia by the Secretary of State.

Both had been dissolved earlier, but were successful in an application for reinstatement and “paid all fees and penalties due”.

Andrew Dias, general manager of the West End Development Corporation, which manages Moresby House, did not respond to e-mailed questions yesterday.

NB: To view the loan agreement between the Government and Savvy, as well as Savvy Entertainment's share capital document, click on the PDFs under Related Media

On the run: Savvy Entertainment chief executive Anthony Blakey, from Atlanta, Georgia, convinced David Burt, the Premier, and Jamahl Simmons, then the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, along with their Cabinet colleagues, to agree to the loan in April 2018 to pay for recording equipment for the historic Moresby House, on Pender Road, in Sandys (Photograph via Facebook)

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Published September 24, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated September 24, 2020 at 10:56 pm)

Premier approved $800,000 loan to Blakey

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