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Prime Minister hits back at former diplomat

Ambassador Newfield (L) in the company of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell (R)

Just a few months after heaping praise on the Kimpton Kawana Bay Resort and the project’s principal developer Warren Newfield, the Grenada government is now accusing the former Grenada diplomat of seeking to damage the country and hinting at possible wrong doing within the development.

Newfield sent a resignation letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Oliver Joseph on Thursday, in which he made stinging allegations of anti-business policies and urged a restoration of reason and the rule of law in Grenada.

Hours later the Grenada government hit back at Newfield, claiming that his allegations have been prompted by an investigation into the conduct of the CBI-funded Kimpton Kawana Bay, a US$88million development in the southern tourism belt.

A statement from the government said, “It must be noted that there has been no recent change in Government policy on business operations and investment. Therefore, the accusations are seen as a clear attempt to hurt the country and the Government”.

“Government asserts that it was investigations into matters relating to Newfield’s Kimpton Kawana Bay project that triggered the “anti-business” allegation. In light of its concerns, Government has already approached an independent auditor to investigate the matter,” the statement went on to say.

But while the statement was vague, Prime Minister Mitchell went down to specifics during a sitting of the House of Representatives on Friday, accusing the former diplomat of misappropriating funds received through the CBI programme.

He said that “money collected through the CBI programme did not correlate with construction activities on the ground”.

PM Mitchell accused Newfield of seeking to get back a 20% equity funding, mandated by law, through money from CBI applications.

“The gentleman, because he couldn’t get the applications he did put down his 20% but later on decides (that) he has to recoup the 20% from CBI applications.” He told Parliament.

In October, Prime Minister Mitchell, along with Parliamentary Representative for South St. George, Nickolas Steele were part of a high-profile team touring the project and at that time he was singing a different tune, effusive in his praise, calling the project a blessing and praising Newfield for providing jobs to Grenadians and expanding the scope of the project..

“The CBI programme has been such a blessing to the country and I certainly want to compliment Warren and his team for initiating that concept and even going further than in fact originally confirmed,” the Grenadian leader was quoted as saying.

The project had suffered a set-back in 2019 when the government had placed a freeze on CBI sales in order to make changes to the governing regulations – the changes included such conditions as the principal developer providing 20% equity upfront and project funds being held in escrow until implementation.

The majority of the US$88million for Newfield’s resort project was raised through the CBI programme, with about two hundred Grenadian passports being issued as a result of investments made in the development by late 2019.

Another US$3million in “Key Financing” was expected to come from Kimpton, which will manage the resort.

According to the Prime Minister, the developer was looking to get a further US$44million dollars through CBI applications and he turned hostile because the government would not allow it.

Two years ago Newfield said he had to invest a lot more equity in the project than was envisaged as a result of the revised CBI regulations.

“Without having the new legislation passed and the approval of 220 (CBI Legislation) we would not have commenced construction on the building. But the government clearly recognised the value of the project and the contribution that it has made so the timing was actually fortuitous.

“That (CBI Legislation) came through once we were ready to start construction. So it was not going to slow it down as a result of that, but we did have to put in additional equity.”

Newfield was identified by sources as a major financier of the NPP campaign in the previous election and according to officials close to the situation, the NNP regime was constantly making money demands which the investor stopped meeting in recent times.

“Every little thing they were calling on him for,” one source said.

For the past six years, Newfield has been footing the bill for the operation of the Grenada Consulate office in Miami at a monthly cost of about US$20, 000.

There are reports that Newfield has informed staff at the Consulate he would continue to pay only up to the end of the month.

This raises questions about whether Grenada on its own can continue to maintain the Miami office without a benefactor given the dire economic straits facing the country and the fact that the office is not as busy as Consulates in New York and Washington.

The Grenadian leader also took issue with Newfield for advising a change of leadership in the country.

The businessman reportedly had suggested about a month ago that the 75 year old ageing Prime Minister should step down from office.

Taking issue with this notion, Prime Minister Mitchell hit back with comments that contained clearly racist meaning.

“Imagine a white man coming and tell us to change the leadership of Grenada. Could you believe this character? If I was in the street I would have said another word. He is telling us that we must change the government of the country, the leadership of the country.”

A source said another foreign investor and Ambassador-at-Large has also been pushing Dr Mitchell to step down since in their view he no longer has anything to offer in leading the country.

Investors in Kimpton Kawana Bay Resort, which Newfield projected would put $100 million into the Grenada economy annually, were said to be primarily from China, the Middle East and other parts of Asia.

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