Castries, Saint Lucia, September 25:– Saint Lucians are this weekend searching, praying and hoping for answers to unanswered questions about the botched EC $7.3 Million (US $2.6 million) deal to purchase 100,000 COVID-19 vaccines for the island.
It’s now confirmed that the money — paid to a company called Radical Investments by Government last April — has virtually disappeared.
Ex-Prime Minister Allen Chastanet on September 22 confirmed to Barbados Today, an online media house, that his administration had indeed contracted Radical Investments, now in the middle of a related court case in the US.
The case involves Radical Investments trying to retrieve US $10.2 million from a Florida-based company called Good Vibrations Entertainment, which was allegedly paid to source and deliver one million Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines for The Bahamas, Barbados and Saint Lucia.
But despite Saint Lucia’s Ministry of Finance and then Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chastanet assuring that “Due Diligence” was undertaken, it’s turning-out that if so, not enough.
Saint Lucia seems the only one of the three nations to have lost out financially on the investment, the full cost of which the Chastanet government said would have been shared.
But the US $2.6 million isn’t included in the US $10.2 million being sought by Radical Investments from Good Vibrations Entertainment, as the then Government of Saint Lucia – for reasons yet known – cancelled the contract just ahead of the island’s July 26th General Elections.
Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre — also Finance Minister — on August 31 told the House of Assembly (parliament) his administration was still trying to trace the $7.3 million.
Radical Investments was paid by the Saint Lucia Treasury following an April 20 Direct Purchase Award directive from the island’s Director of Finance, quoting an order from Finance Minister Chastanet received earlier that same day.
The Director of Finance then instructed that the ministry’s three top department heads be furnished promptly with the relevant contract documents to facilitate and fast-track payments.
Interestingly, the letter ended with a paragraph indicating that “failure to comply” would render the Ministry in breach of the island’s “Procurement and Stores Regulations”.
The Pierre administration continues trying to trace the money, but to no avail, amid increasing signs that whatever Due Diligence was undertaken before the no-bid contract was awarded and paid-for, wasn’t enough to uncover the deal was suspect.
The COVID Command Center was quite aware the vaccine manufacturers did not sell to private sources, but only to governments – and vaccines are delivered directly to country’s official health facilities and not through third parties.
In that sense, it was practically impossible for Radical Investments (or Good Vibrations Entertainment) to have legally secured the vaccines from any independent supplier.
It also turns out that none of the main players in the deal – Barbadian developer Mark Maloney, Radical Investments and Good Vibrations Entertainment – had any previous experience in securing, procuring or delivering vaccines.
Barbados has made it clear it’s lost not-one-cent in the botched deal, as its arrangement with the said entities was always that Barbados would only pay after the vaccines landed.
This was confirmed by the island’s Acting Prime Minister Santia Bradshaw and Minister of Health and Wellness Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, who both assured Barbadians they hadn’t lost a penny.
Barbados was said set to get 300,000 of the million vaccines, 100,000 for Saint Lucia and the remaining 600,000 presumably for The Bahamas.
But Nassau has made no statement on the issue, or any claim for losses, as the $10.2 million was only paid to Good Vibrations Entertainment by Maloney and Radical Investments, for Barbados’ vaccines.
But all along, Good Vibrations Entertainment was in no position to secure vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca, resulting in Maloney and Radical Investments concluding they were led up the garden path – and taking legal action against what they now describe as “a scam”.
Maloney filed a lawsuit in a Fort Lauderdale court claiming to have been “deceptively” lured into an “elaborate” scam for one million “non-existent” doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through Good Vibrations.
Meanwhile, the place of registration of Radical Investments seems uncertain, as it was described in Saint Lucia as having a UK base with a Saint Lucian named in charge, while the US court documents say it was established in Saint Lucia by Maloney — and operates out of Barbados.
It’s uncertain why Barbados never paid a cent up-front, but it’s quite clear that whatever Saint Lucia’s Due Diligence, it was not diligent enough to detect early warning signals, that Saint Lucia was being drawn into a scam.
Meanwhile, the search continues – even this weekend — for the missing $7.3 million