After several years of claims and counterclaims, the government has announced the settlement of all current claims and proceedings with Mario Hoffmann and the Salt Cay development companies.
The Salt Cay developers have long maintained their innocence in relation to a number of issues involving members and supporters of the Progressive National Party (PNP). These include but are not limited to former premier Michael Misick and his brother, attorney Chalmers ‘Chal’ Misick.
The terms of the settlement are confidential, but the parties have agreed to make public all significant terms:
1. Hoffmann and the development companies have transferred all the lands on Salt Cay which they own or lease to the government, totalling some 1,506 acres;
2. Hoffmann and the development companies have made a contribution to the government's costs;
3. Hoffmann has surrendered his Belongership;
4. Neither Hoffmann nor the development companies admitted any wrongdoing or civil or criminal liability when entering into the settlement.
Attorney General Huw Shepheard commented: "We are pleased that these disputes have now been settled, and in consequence that the position of Salt Cay is now secured with the transfer of all the respective lands on Salt Cay to the government. The government will be undertaking a broad consultation as to the future of Salt Cay."
While the case resolves the issues between the government and the Czech Republic-based developers, it does not exonerate Michael Misick or his brother.
The law firm of the new deputy leader of the PNP, Carlos Simons, represented the Salt Cay developers in what became a central issue in the 2008/2009 Commission of Inquiry.
The Salt Cay developers reportedly contributed $50,000 to each political party for their campaigns in for the 2007 election. The contributions were made available through the law firm of Miller Simons and, in the case of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), was picked up by their former national chairman Shaun Malcolm. Malcolm is reported to have told associates that more went to the PDM but this has never been verified and in fact was denied by former PDM executives. This seemingly caused a schism between Malcolm and the party.
During the Commission of Inquiry it was revealed that former premier Michael Misick and former minister of natural resources, McAllister Hanchell, had been issued with ‘Black’ American Express cards drawn on a Czech bank of which Hoffman was a principal. These cards were reported to have unrestricted spending limits.
The PNP has remained silent on the exact amount the party received from the Salt Cay developers. PDM officials were not asked to testify or answer any questions in the Inquiry.
Hoffman issued a statement re-asserting his innocence.
"We have at all times maintained our innocence with respect to all allegations of misconduct and corruption made against us and determined that it was most convenient and expedient to enter into the settlement rather than continue on with the disputes in relation to Salt Cay. We are pleased to put these disputes behind us. We have maintained our innocence at all times and continue to think that our project for Salt Cay was a good one for the people of Salt Cay and the Turks and Caicos Islands. After litigating these issues for several years, in light of all mutual claims we felt it best to settle these disputes now and move forward with our other businesses. We thank the people of Salt Cay for their trust and confidence in us," he said.
The resolution of these Salt Cay issues now joins the large settlements made between the government and Seven Stars and one of the principals of the Third Turtle developments. However, this is the first settlement where the developer denies any wrongdoing.