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Cannonier brushes off ‘Jetgate’ criticism

MPs yesterday clashed in a long-running row over an overseas trip to meet a US business tycoon.

Premier Craig Cannonier came under fire as Opposition Progressive Labour Party MPs lobbed a series of questions in connection with the controversial trip on a private jet to Washington last year.

The Premier denied he had met “any of the principals” of US-based developers Landow on an earlier visit to Washington for the inauguration of US President Barack Obama.

And he refused to name the fourth person on the trip — his business manager and golf pro Stephen DaCosta — on the grounds that the name had already been well-publicised after a question from Shadow Finance Minister David Burt.

Mr Cannonier said: “As detailed in my May statement, I believe the question to be a bit redundant — the Honourable Member does know the answer to this question. It has also been out there in the media who accompanied me on this trip.”

And the Premier repeated denials of any wrongdoing or breach of the code of conduct for Minsters.

He added that Mr DaCosta, who accompanied the Premier, Attorney General Mark Pettingill and Tourism and Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell, had been granted permission by the owner to travel on the plane and confirmed he had been present at a meeting with representatives of Landow, controlled by businessman Michael Landow.

PLP deputy leader Derrick Burgess asked if Mr Dacosta's presence had been due to his golf expertise.

Mr Cannonier said: “The intent of the fourth person was not to be in the meetings.”

But he added that Mr Dacosta had answered questions on Bermuda golf during the meeting.

And he told Opposition MP Rolfe Commissiong that he did not know for how long Mr DaCosta was involved in the meeting.

And Attorney General Mark Pettingill — who confirmed Mr Dacosta's name — told Mr Burt: “I'm not really sure how long he was in the meeting. There were breaks in the meeting and he was certainly in it for chunks of the meeting.”

After the morning session of the House, Mr Cannonier brushed off the row.

He said: “It doesn't bother me because it basically shows they have a political agenda — this is not about truth, this is about a good story.”

And he added that to portray “someone considering investing in Bermuda in a negative light is not helping.”

Mr Cannonier said: “This is just dirty politics — at the end of the day we need to move beyond this.”

But Opposition leader Marc Bean said the Premier's position was “totally out of order.”

He added: “We serve the people of this country and the day when politicians think they don't have to answer the people they serve is the day we need to return to the polls.

“There is a lack of confidence, not just in this chamber but among the people, who are tired of the lies, the incompetence.”

Premier Craig Cannonier speaks during a press conference Thursday in the A B Place Media Room about the SAGE Report (photo by Glenn Tucker)

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Published March 22, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated March 21, 2014 at 11:30 pm)

Cannonier brushes off ‘Jetgate’ criticism

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