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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stanford companies say Antigua government owes them millions

The Stanford Group of Companies has sent a letter of demand to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue alleging that Stanford Development Company (SDC) is owed over $11 million for Antigua & Barbuda Sales Tax (ABST) returns for the period June to November 2008.

The letter was prepared and sent to Inland Revenue by SDC‘s legal representative Hugh Marshall and Company mid-February – just days after the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) pulled the plug on a number of Stanford companies resulting in the halting of operations. Some of the affected businesses are Sticky Wicket Restaurant, Antigua Athletic Club and Stanford Warehouse.

A Stanford affiliate who requested anonymity said the company is asking that the ABST returns and loans to government, prior to 2004, be repaid or at least credited towards the $7 million reportedly owed to APUA for utilities.

The source accused government of contributing to the companies’ disconnection woes, adding that government is stalling negotiations regarding restoration of utilities needed to resume operations.

The source said that while there has been settlement talks between government and Andrea Stoelker, who is one of the directors of the Stanford Group, those discussions ceased because Stoelker does not have a work permit and government “refused to grant her one, which has caused her to have to leave the island at least three times since Stanford was indicted for fraud.”

The affiliate said the Stanford Group is owed just over $2.1 million as of June 27, 2008, a further $5.7 million as of August 1, 2008 and a little over $4.4 million as of November 4, 2008.

Meantime, a government source said APUA is a statutory corporation and any utility bills incurred should be paid.

“APUA is a statutory corporation and whatever money SDC claims to be owed in ABST returns or for another reason, has nothing to do with the sums they owe for the utilities they failed to pay for,” the individual said. “They should have been paying their monthly bills. It has nothing to do with whether government owes the company ABST.

“If those are the figures they’ve indicated, then they must be corroborated by Inland Revenue records.”

The group reportedly began talks with government in mid-February, this year, to discuss a number of issues, including repayment of loans to government prior to 2004, monies owed to APUA, continued operations of the Athletic Club, Sticky Wicket, the Pavilion Restaurant, FBO Hangar, Sun Printing and Publishing, among other companies, and acquisition of Stanford lands.

Other issues government wants to address with the Stanford companies reportedly relate to severance payment to the hundreds of employees sent home after US authorities accused Sir R Allen Stanford of running a massive Ponzi Scheme, and repayment of loans to government pre-2004.

Also on the table for discussion is APUA’s interest in the osmosis plant owned by Stanford Group.

This newspaper was reliably informed that APUA was seeking to purchase water from the group but had to turn down the company’s offer because “the price was way above the cost currently being paid to another private company.”

On February 4, operations ceased at Sticky Wicket, the Pavilion, Stanford Warehouse and the Athletic Club when APUA halted utility services to these businesses. The employees were sent home “for three months.”

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