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Government refuses to release records on failed recording studio deal

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Major Marc Telemaque, the Cabinet Secretary
Information Commissioner Gitanjali Gutierrez

The Cabinet Office has refused to release records about a loan of $800,000 to an exempt entertainment company because of a police investigation.

Marc Telemaque, the Cabinet Secretary, wrote to The Royal Gazette yesterday to say there would be no disclosure of the documents, which the newspaper requested last September under the Public Access to Information Act.

Major Telemaque said the records were exempt because their release “would or could reasonably be expected to prejudice the investigation of a breach or possible breach of the law”.

He added: “This matter is the subject of an active police investigation in which at least two arrests have been made.

“Similarly, the disclosure … would or could reasonably be expected to prejudice the ongoing investigation and, moreover, the impartial adjudication of the case.”

The Royal Gazette made the request after it was revealed the loan from the Government had not been repaid and police had been called in to help track down Anthony Blakey, an American music promoter and founder of Savvy Entertainment.

The Government did not respond to the Pati request and Major Telemaque failed to issue a decision after he carried out a review.

Gitanjali Gutierrez, the Information Commissioner, reviewed the lack of a response and ordered the Cabinet Office to provide a decision by yesterday at the latest, which it did.

The Cabinet secretary apologised in his letter for the time it had taken to respond.

The Royal Gazettereported in July 2019 that Government had launched a bid to recover the loan, which was for a recording studio at Dockyard which never materialised.

Lawyers for the Government failed to find Mr Blakey in Georgia to serve him with a demand to return the taxpayer cash, plus interest, which was reported in September last year.

David Burt, the Premier, later apologised for overseeing the loan to Mr Blakey and Danilee Trott, a Bermudian event planner who was working for Savvy.

The Government made a complaint about the missing cash to the police and an investigation was launched after The Royal Gazette story was published.

Police arrested an individual – believed to be Ms Trott – on September 30 last year in connection with the missing cash. She has said she did not receive any of the cash.

Zane DeSilva, a former Government minister, was arrested two days later and said after his release that he had “absolutely no involvement” in the deal.

Police said in January their inquiries continued.

The Pati request asked for records held by the former Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism on Savvy and on the loan agreement, including documents that involved Savvy, Mr Blakey and Ms Trott and calendar or diary entries that showed meetings between government officials and the two.

Tourism is now part of the Premier’s portfolio – why the Commissioner’s order was for the Cabinet Office.

TIMELINE

• September 2016: Savvy Entertainment Ltd is registered as an exempted company in Bermuda, with all $12,000 in shares in the company held by William Anthony Blakey, known as Anthony Blakey, a songwriter and music promoter from Atlanta.

• February 2018: Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the public works minister, announces that Savvy Entertainment will take over management of Cross Island, the home of the 35th America’s Cup. The press conference hears that historic Moresby House at Dockyard will be turned into a recording studio by Savvy Entertainment.

• April 2018: The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism signs off on an $800,000 loan to Mr Blakey and Danilee Trott, a Bermudian event planner who works as chief operations officer for Savvy Entertainment, to set up the music studio at Moresby House.

• June 2019: The Government of Bermuda issues a pre-action demand for payment to Savvy for defaulting on the loan in the amount of $778,204.

• August 2019: Wedco says Moresby House and the nearby Star of India building, which was the headquarters for Savvy Foundation, are available to rent.

• September 22, 2020: The Government tells The Royal Gazette it has been unable to track down Mr Blakey to serve him with a demand for payment. A spokeswoman said: “The Bermuda Government has 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.”

• September 23, 2020: The Bermuda Police Service states it has received no such report to investigate the matter from the Government. That day, civil servants meet with detectives to report the missing money.

• September 25, 2020: The Royal Gazette submits a public access to information request to the Government for records on Savvy and on the loan agreement. Government has until November 6 to give a decision on whether to release the records.

• December 3, 2020: Having failed to get a response, The Royal Gazette asks the Cabinet Secretary to conduct an internal review. The review decision is due on January 14.

• January 27, 2021: Having failed to get an internal review decision, the Information Commissioner is asked to conduct a review.

• February 23, 2021: The commissioner finds that the Cabinet Office failed to comply inside the time frame in the Pati Act and orders it to make a decision by yesterday.

• March 23, 2021: Cabinet Secretary Marc Telemaque issues a decision not to release the records because of the ongoing police inquiry.

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Published March 24, 2021 at 8:05 am (Updated March 24, 2021 at 7:55 am)

Government refuses to release records on failed recording studio deal

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