TCIG STANDS READY TO SETTLE WITH BEACHES TCI
The Government of the Turks and Caicos Islands has seen the recent statement from the Management of Beaches Resort & Spa which regrettably can only be characterised as misleading and mischievous.
Until now, TCIG has refrained from making any public statements as to ongoing discussions with Beaches TCI but the many actions taken by TCIG to resolve this matter are on the public record and despite public criticism, TCIG through a change in the law and through the provision of an amnesty, took active steps to reach an amicable resolution of the ongoing tax matter.
This recent statement by Beaches has drawn unwarranted and unfair criticism of TCIG by those who seek to make political mischief. It is important to therefore refute the assertion that TCIG's has not been engaged and that its inaction has caused a delay in the resolution of this matter. This public statement is simply to be transparent and to clarify the public record. The Premier, as Minister of Finance, has also written to Beaches in an attempt to bring clarity to this recent public stance.
Furthermore, the underlying premise of Beaches’ statement is fundamentally and demonstrably untrue. TCIG’s position is public and has been discussed and debated in the House of Assembly and by law it remains that there has been an underpayment of taxes whether intentional or not. But it is also the case that Beaches is the cause of the current delay in resolving the proceedings.
There are in fact two cases that have been brought by Beaches against TCIG. Beaches first issued proceedings in the Supreme Court in or around May 2019. TCIG gave notice of its intention to defend those proceedings promptly and in accordance with the Rules of the Supreme Court. Since then, TCIG has been actively engaged in seeking to find an amicable solution. It made little sense at that juncture to spend time and money in pleading its Defence and Counterclaim in full. In February 2020, Beaches issued a second set of proceedings, this time in the Magistrate’s Court, seeking to challenge an assessment of an independent audit (called for by Beaches). Because the Magistrate’s Court is not a court of pleadings, there was no requirement on TCIG to plead a Defence to Beaches’ claim.
On 29 July 2020, the proceedings in the Magistrate’s Court came on for hearing before the Chief Magistrate. Following discussions with Counsel for TCIG, Attorneys for Beaches, agreed to take instructions from Beaches about staying the proceedings before the Magistrate and having all matters in issue between the parties dealt with in the Supreme Court. Counsel said he would revert to TCIG and the Court in short order regarding his clients’ position and the matter was re-listed for hearing on 12 August 2020. Nothing further was heard from Beaches' Attorneys until they were chased on 11 August 2020 by TCIG’s Counsel. At that time, Beaches’ Counsel said that Beaches agreed to the stay of the Magistrate’s Court proceedings and he provided a draft consent order which included a provision that Beaches would amend its Statement of Claim in the Supreme Court proceedings to incorporate those reliefs sought in the Magistrate’s Court but not otherwise raised in the Supreme Court proceedings. That was a month ago. TCIG has not yet received any such amended Statement of Claim and continues to await service of the same, at which point it will then plead its Defence. Counsel for the parties have agreed that it would make no logical sense for TCIG to plead a Defence to the original claim only for it to be superceded by an amended claim which would then have to be addressed by an amended Defence.
Beaches’ decision to issue an inaccurate and misleading statement is disappointing and appears to be an attempt to fight the issue of Beaches’ tax liability in public rather than in a more dignified manner before the Courts, and this regrettably has forced TCIG to respond publicly in its commitment to be transparent.
TCIG has enjoyed an open and courteous dialogue with Beaches over the years. TCIG has made several concessions over the years and engaged from the highest level of governance with meetings including a lawyers’ meeting and meetings with the Premier, the Governor and Team Beaches, all in an effort to resolve this matter. This recent public statement by Beaches is regrettably an open declaration of hostility towards TCIG and its timing can only be interpreted as an intentional act to cause frustration.
TCIG remains open to resolve this matter and has since written to Beaches to restate its known position as demonstrated over the years.
This tax matter pre-dates the current Administration and all efforts were made to reach a resolution; public and private actions demonstrate this. TCIG maintains that it is in no one's best interest to have this matter lingering. Nonetheless, Beaches does have a right to take the course of action it does in the Court and TCIG has a right to defend. TCIG stands ready to resolve this matter: be it through the filing of a Defence to the amended Statement of Claim still to be submitted by Beaches, or through the ongoing attempts at an amicable resolution.
TCIG, like Governments around the world, is undergoing unprecedented challenges due to the fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic. As the largest hotel property, Beaches is important to the economy and so all concessions given to this point can be defended. Our offers to resolve are bound only by law and not an unwillingness to resolve. Despite this sudden and surprising shift by Beaches on Friday past, we trust this is not a permanent shift in its approach taken over the years, which was usually one of engagement. TCIG is hopeful that Beaches will submit its amended Statement of Claim or finalise discussions at the table so that this old matter can be put to rest.
TCIG has always demonstrated its willingness and maintains its willingness to resolve this matter.