OBA: “Curtis Affair Was Not An Accident”

October 13, 2011

Shadow Minister for Public Administration & Reform Shawn Crockwell and Shadow Attorney General Trevor Moniz released a statement about the Andre Curtis verdict saying, “While Mr. Curtis’s behaviour was reprehensible – spending tens of thousands of dollars of public money on personal matters rather than getting faith-based tourists to the island – we are more concerned with what his trial revealed about the conduct of the Government at the highest levels.”

“The Curtis affair was not an accident,” said the OBA statement. “It was not an oversight. It was an intended course of action, driven by the then Premier and Tourism Minister and put into effect by ministers and officials.”

The statement continued on to say that, “We cannot have a government that plays fast and loose with the public purse. The Bermuda tax dollar is not to be used for private favours. It is the people’s money.”

Mr Curtis was hired in 2007 to launch an initiative designed to bring tourists to Bermuda for religious events, with the contract worth $400,000.

Yesterday [Oct.12] a Supreme Court jury returned a not guilty verdict against Mr Curtis for theft of more than $130,000 in Government funds earmarked for the Faith Based Tourism [FBT] initiative.

During the trial defense counsel Mark Pettingill argued his client’s contract with Government was so vague it didn’t actually spell out the funds must be spent on the venture to draw religious holidaymakers to the island. Consequently, argued the lawyer, Mr. Curtis did not break any laws when he spent some of the funds on matters unrelated to the tourism initiative.

Mr Curtis – who was previously fined $335,000 for his role in a worldwide Ponzi scheme – is currently serving a prison sentence for running an unlicensed investment business. In December 2010, he was jailed for 15 months and is due to be released from prison soon.

The statement from Mr Moniz and Mr Crockwell follows in full below:

The public should not be surprised with the outcome of the Andre Curtis case. He did exactly what was intended of him under the contract – nothing.

While Mr. Curtis’s behaviour was reprehensible – spending tens of thousands of dollars of public money on personal matters rather than getting faith-based tourists to the island – we are more concerned with what his trial revealed about the conduct of the Government at the highest levels.

All the way down the line in this case, its ministers and officials bowed to the will of crony-driven politics. Their behaviour stands as a classic example of people disregarding rules and trust to put friends first and Bermuda second.

Consider the following:

  • There was no public tender for the contract, meaning no attempt was made to invite a competing bid that could have put forward an alternative and possibly less costly faith-based tourism plan.
  • Mr. Curtis was given $25,000 of public money before the contract was approved by the Cabinet.
  • A senior civil servant was ordered by another to mock up a contract “to make this happen yesterday.”
  • The contract did not impose effective controls on how the money was spent. The Government, court was told, simply “handed (Mr. Curtis) the cookie jar.”

As these things occurred, you can sense the strong push from the top to make it all happen, with everyone falling into line, regardless of rules and regulations; most disappointingly the Finance Minister Paula Cox, the protector of the public purse, who was simply not a factor.

We cannot have a government that plays fast and loose with the public purse.

The Bermuda tax dollar is not to be used for private favours. It is the people’s money. Rules are in place to make sure it is spent wisely and effectively, but these rules were ignored at every check-point.

One of the OBA’s founding principles is Responsibility, whereby government at all levels must be held accountable for its actions. Accountability is essential for good governance. Apply it and government cannot stray far from serving the public interest.

In the Faith-based scandal, the issue of accountability is not a question for historians to ponder. It is an issue that remains alive today.

The Premier talks about implementing reforms to strengthen accountability, but this is tantamount to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. The Premier today can lasso that horse by addressing the transgressions revealed in the Curtis trial.

She has an opportunity to demonstrate that rules already in place will be upheld; otherwise we must ask: Why should anyone have confidence in new rules you make if you don’t uphold the rules on the books today?

The point here is that people are the issue, not the rules. It is people who give meaning to rules. It is their actions that make them either real and relevant or fake and meaningless

Action can still be taken to close out this matter in a way that serves the principle of accountability. Action can still be taken to recover lost funds.

What is the Premier going to do? What is her plan of action?

The Curtis affair was not an accident. It was not an oversight. It was an intended course of action, driven by the then Premier and Tourism Minister and put into effect by ministers and officials.

No one stood up for Bermuda in this sorry affair. In fact, no one stood up at all.

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Comments (81)

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  1. Cancer says:

    You get em OBA!!!!

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    • Rockfish#1and#2 says:

      This is at least the second time Telemaque has ordered senior civil servants to just "make it happen" or words to that effect.
      To whom does he answer?

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      • Black Soil says:

        I hate that PLP has come to this. In 1998 we had high expectations. I am very disappointed. The PLP have out UBP'ed the UBP.

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      • All Clogged Up says:

        OUCH!!!! and we all know that particular PS has no backbone......can't pay me enough to sell out like that....I would rather have my honor than a paycheck.....so many more of them out there feeding at the trough....getting all 'clogged' up in the process of overeating on my dime!

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        • James says:

          In light of the Emerald Financial/Bermuda Hospitals Pension allegations, I think it a fair question to ask how much of the $130,000.00 did Mr. Curtis actually take $130,000 for his own devices or was he simply a vehicle to feed someone more highly placed. Seems to me both the Boldens and Mr. Curtis are pawns for a much bigger player. Regardless, it is sad when the aspirations of a legitimate, honorable political party and those who support are hijacked by gangsters. That is why an OBA victory is so essential next time out - to allow the PLP to clean house.

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      • PEPPER says:

        Sista....Curtis is in jail for a fraud charge, remember harvest investment !!! he is serving time for his connection with that case.

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      • PEPPER says:

        Rockfish . Telemaque answers to himself....or to Burch...

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  2. Mbaya Avunaye says:

    I stand to be corrected but wasn't this man defended by a member of the OBA

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    • 5boro says:

      Mark Pettingill represented Andre Curtis. He'd defend the devil for a check. Get him cleared of all charges. Then tell you that god was on his side.

      "No one stood up for Bermuda in this sorry affair. In fact, no one stood up at all."

      Stay classy OBA.

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      • 1minute says:

        @5boro - according to the jury, Mark Pettingill represented an innocent him. He's a lawyer, that's his job.
        Is it that he represented Andre Curtis or that he made the PLP look bad, again, that really bothers you?

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        • 5boro says:

          Sorry 1minute, I think it's the OBA who doesn't look too good this time around. But feel free to continue to follow the spin.

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          • Waiting Patiently says:

            To be honest, the PLP look bad for drawing up a shoddy contract.

            Those people who cant disassociate a lawyer from his true beliefs is the type of person that doesnt really vote on issues anyway, so it doesnt matter who looks bad to them. No real critical thinking.

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            • 5boro says:

              But you're judging a whole party on the actions of a few of it's members. So critical thinking has nothing to do with this, only you critics.

              A politician is often measured by his/her character. On one hand we have one who wanted to grease the palms of his friends. On the other we have one who wants to help the friends of the opposition walk. As the OBA said, no one stood up for Bermuda. Not even the OBA/UBP. They're just throwing rocks.

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              • Tired of nonsense says:

                They did stand up the whole time when these blatant shenanigans were taking place during the previous administration.

                You know what the response was each and every time?

                Racist
                Haters
                Fear mongerers
                Liars
                White supremacists
                House negroes

                Well you know the typical PLP response to any sort of criticism.

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          • LOL (original) says:

            As LV says your not the sharpest one out there are you. The contract was writen badly to the effect that AC did not do anything illegal so you would condemn an innocent man when to any who read and understand what happened it was the PLP government who drew up the contract, vetted it thourgh the AG and Cabnet and your upset with the OBA's Mark Pettingill for doing his job. If only you held the Government to the same standard.................

            LOL

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            • 5boro says:

              No, I'm not upset about anything. I am just pointing out Mark Pettingill's character and what this reflects on me about him. As well as, these comments by the OBA and what that reflects on me about them. They are out to make the PLP look bad. If they want to do that, that's fine with me (even though the PLP doesn't need much help). What I am not seeing them do is anything that will benefit Bermuda.

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              • LOL (original) says:

                That’s you opinion and your entitled to it but what it says to me is that one used a loop whole to give someone a payoff and the other did what he was paid to do regardless of his affiliations. Which would you want to by "paid" to run the country a guy who gave the publics money away for free to someone other than you (thought I might keep it clear of conflicting interests) or a guy who does what the country pays him to do and all that entails (best interests of the country ie the payer)?

                LOL

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    • Got to go says:

      I remember a person that was familiar with law speaking to this point a few months back on bernews. From what I can remember, lawyers are obligated by law to represent clients that seek their counsel, and cannot turn a client down for political or other reasons. Therefore if Mr. Curtis sought out Mr. Pettingill, then by law he has to represent him. This is what I understood, but I could be wrong. So, obviously Mr. Pettingill is going to defend his client to the best of his ability, as it is his job to do so.

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      • Mike says:

        A lawyer is free to accept or reject clients as he/she wishes to.

        There is no obligation on them to accept a particular case.

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    • Jay says:

      Pettingil won't be an OBA member much longer...

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      • PEPPER says:

        Jay.. I agree with you the OBA does not need Pettingill, what ever happened to Mark he used to be a nice guy ?( IS IT ALL ABOUT THE ALMIGHTY DOLLAR) and what the hell is that hat he is wearing ? he looks like a Mafia lawyer.. is he trying to cover his bald head ? and does he still work for Wakefield Quinn ?

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    • Toni says:

      The Constitution dictates that anyone is entitled to a defence by a lawyer of their choice. Mark is a renowned defence attorney and cannot decline a Client due to differing politics unless there is a conflict in that defence. That would certainly not speak to integrity if a Lawyer did that. As with a doctor - you cannot deny a patient. Let us not be deflected from the crux of the issue.....

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  3. through the lens says:

    blah blah bore me some more Mr OBA

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    • mixitup says:

      The OBA is doing their job, I don't yet support them, but I appreciate their asking the relevant questions that somebody, madam Premier, better answer. This is blatant theft! and no one is being held accountable.

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  4. Defense lawyer made Pee L Pee Govt. look like a bunch of monkeys

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    • G says:

      I think it must of been designed that way. The contract so vague it enabled them to steal money without being guilty in court.

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    • Kim Smith says:

      @Larry Darrell & Darrell - your comment is totally unacceptable and I would suggest you apologise for your disrespect.

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      • GRIZZ says:

        @ Kim Smith, I was thinking the same thing!!! Mr. Larry Darrell I think it is most inappropriate that you would call anyone a Monkey. People have been slapped for less and yes I said slapped because I believe that's what I would do if you called me that!! Apology is warranted!!

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  5. Bible Thumper says:

    The member of the OBA who defended him was a lawyer. Lawyers are well known to be the lowest form of humanity.

    The difference between a Catfish and a Lawyer? One is a scum sucking bottom blower. The other is a fish.

    In addition, Faith Based Tourism is the perfect scam - why is anyone surprised? Religion is the biggest scam in history. Give us your money and you'll be forgiven for everything you've done wrong and go somewhere nice when you die. Why the heck didn't I think of that?

    As long as there are stupid people to believe this - and pay 10% for it........?

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    • Maddog says:

      You could not God did.

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    • Eastern says:

      @Bible Thumper..........Careful what you say, not only may you need a lawyer one day, but we all got to die and after your dead and find out that you were wrong about religion too....it's too late.....oooops!!!

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  6. STEWEY BABCOCK says:

    “The Curtis affair was not an accident,” It was an act of God ,, I mean good faith . Manna from Cabin-net .

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  7. Triangle Drifter says:

    Like it or not Pettingill did his job & did it well. It is disappointing that he did not turn the job down. There are PLP supporting lawyers. What happened? None of them good enough?

    Lets hope that when the OBA forms the Government a full enquiry will be held, as per Turks & Caicos Islands. Perhaps a certain US citizen will be brought to justice & get to add Westgate to his list of taxpayer funded accomodations.

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  8. Chart says:

    The tell tale in this case is the "mysterious" check made out on the PLP account. Of course they don't want to open the can of worms there!
    Bermuda needs political finance reform. We need reporting of the money that flows through the political parties and campaigns.

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  9. Rumandcoke says:

    During the case, an office rental was mentioned.
    People....check where that office was located.

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  10. Sista says:

    Why is there so much drama in this Island called pardise?

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  11. Rick Rock says:

    The defense case was based on the fact that Ewart and the PLP were giving away tax dollars to Curtis for absolutely nothing. This guy was Ewart's friend and campaign manager, and then Ewart "awards" him a "contract" where he gets $400,000 for doing absolutely nothing. Nothing at all.

    It amounts to a kickback. A big one. Paid for with our tax dollars.

    That's the PLP for you. Pretending to be for the "working man", while what they're really doing is lining their own pockets. Taking from the poor and giving it to the useless.

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  12. sandgrownan says:

    The fundamental issue is that the former Premier used the public purse as his own, to payoff political allies, to award no bid contracts, to pay for lavish parties, etc etc.

    The current Premier and of the current crop of misfits, let him do it.

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    • All Clogged Up says:

      I can't say anything beyond what I'm saying..... ;-( no defence to offer.

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    • Ole says:

      Sandy - you still here? Again, what are you going to do when the OBA fails at the polls???

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      • sandgrownan says:

        Easy. Execute the departure plan that is already in place, take my Bermudian family away from home because it simply isn't worth being here anymore.

        Now, you may say, don't let the door hit my ass on the way out, and fair enough, but the but is that i'm not the only one.

        Bermuda is all but finished. Another PLP administration will be the nail in the coffin. Bermudians have gotten exactly what they deserved.

        From a leading financial centre with high employment and gdp to third wolrd status in 14 years. Well done PLP!

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        • RN says:

          Where are you going ....I want to leave too, but every continent I look at is having unemployment and financial issue that are worst then Bermuda's

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          • Whistling Frog says:

            Most Bermudians who want to leave the country don't have a clue what the world is about... They just wanna leave Bermuda without a plan because things are not going their way and hope everyone follows their lead just for miserable company's sake. I have a friend who moved to London years ago, living on government welfare and has been calling every Tom, Dick and Harry back home including myself asking to burrow money to which he has no intentions on paying it back, he has no place to live, running to and from shelters but has so much pride to not return home.
            To all you Bermudians who thought moving out of the country would be easy living, now know that being in the frying pan is better then being in the fire any day... At least the pan catches a little water to cool things down...

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  13. RN says:

    At the moment the OBA is playing politic, plain and simple.

    Everyone knows that the Government, don't take an individual ideas, and put them out to tender. If I was a white person and took a good idea, to the Government to solve an issue, and they took my idea and put it out tender, especially if the winner of the tender happened to be black the OBA would have another story.

    No one is excusing what happened, but note the PLP does not hire PS. also thieves and con-artist come in all forms, they are in every organization, there are thieves presently in the OBA as well as in the PLP, there are thieves working for HSBC, BNTB, in IB and in Government. and sometimes they get away with their action.

    Are we seeking to put some of these fund managers from Argus and BNTB in jail, for eroding away most of the small guys pension funds. Are they con-artist or bad decision makers. How much fees did the Bank and the Mangers make for our loses.

    Come together Bermuda....leave the small stuff alone...this case cost more than the 100K+ dollars, supposedly taken.

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    • JD says:

      LOL - RN that post is priceless, absolute comedy gold from start to finish.

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    • Hmmmmm says:

      Well said. Only in Bermuda could a convicted felon like Shawn Crockwell get a free pass to lecture us about something like this. There's a prominent OBA member who reacted violently when told that his "original idea" would have to be tendered. Don't think for one minute that you lot are the only ones who can take the gloves off. Stick to a campaign on ideas.

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      • Tired of nonsense says:

        Or a convicted armed robber who hates white people can lecture us on race relations...Everyone has gloves as you said above...

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      • 32n64w says:

        "Don’t think for one minute that you lot are the only ones who can take the gloves off."

        It's confirmed ... the PLP's new campaign slogan is "Feel the Glove" !

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        • Hmmmmm says:

          Lovely turn of phrase.That's just a taste to let you all know that not everyone in the PLP is on the nicey, mea culpa, apologist page of the Premier. "Feel the Glove"....has a certain ring to it. lmao

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    • Mad Dawg says:

      "Leave the small stuff alone"? So $400,000 is "small stuff" to you?

      You must be one of those rich PLP people.

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    • G says:

      I'm not sure what you are trying to say.... Are you saying by: 'leave the small stuff alone', that we should ignore this case of corruption since this is a small amount in the grand scheme of things?

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    • ap says:

      every one of ur statements above is wrong and inaccurate. i didnt think at first that a reply was worth it, but now think differently:

      1) government is about politics, so how is the OBA playing politics and the PLP arent? furthermore, in the form of govt that we have in our society, the governing party is no good without a strong opposition. The opposition is there to rebut and criticse to make sure that the people in power stay on track.

      2) Clearly you werent on the island when EB was in power and took care of all of his "friends" in every sector of the economy, from correia up at the dockyard peir, the boldens in the financial sector and now curtis in the faith based tourism sector, get your facts straight and stop trying to bring race into this.

      3) regardless of what goes on in the private sector, even though that is something else that i feel needs to be regulated more effectively, the goverment is spending the PEOPLE'S money, that includes you. by the sound of your third paragraph, it seems like you are cool with your tax dollars being given away for home improvements...

      come together TN, leave the racial stuff alone, and open your eyes and what is being revealed around you!

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    • LOL (original) says:

      "No one is excusing what happened,"
      "Everyone knows that the Government, don’t take an individual ideas, and put them out to tender. If I was a white person and took a good idea, to the Government to solve an issue, and they took my idea and put it out tender, especially if the winner of the tender happened to be black the OBA would have another story. but note the PLP does not hire PS. also thieves and con-artist come in all forms, they are in every organization, there are thieves presently in the OBA as well as in the PLP, there are thieves working for HSBC, BNTB, in IB and in Government. and sometimes they get away with their action.

      Are we seeking to put some of these fund managers from Argus and BNTB in jail, for eroding away most of the small guys pension funds. Are they con-artist or bad decision makers. How much fees did the Bank and the Mangers make for our loses.

      Come together Bermuda….leave the small stuff alone

      Infact you are excusing it.

      LOL

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  14. Truth is killin' me... says:

    WHY THE F#CK SHOULD I PAY TAXES WHEN ALL I SEE IS CURTIS AND CO. TAKE GOVERNMENT MONEY WHICH IS BERMUDA'S MONEY AND ADD ON TO THEIR HOUSE! BULLSH#T!!!!! LET ME SEE CURTIS IN THE STREET!!!!!!!!IT'LL MAKE ZANE'S RUN-IN LOOK LIKE A PLEASANTRY!!!!!!!!!!

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  15. Truth (Original) says:

    RN- The thrust of the article is deeper than just playing party politics. The issue is that Andre Curtis' "award" was driven from someone very high up in the PLP hierarchy (not the Civil Service) and that the financial rules that were already in place were flat out ignored to make this happen.

    The qustion is why and how was this allowed to happen? More importantly, what is the Government going to do about it now? They have recourse but I am not at all persuaded that the Government is going to do anything to get the people money back neither are they going to do anything that remotely resembles the transparency or accountability that is spoken of so much these days.

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  16. Kim Smith says:

    Mr. Curtis' contract was a gift from the former Premier... plain and simple.

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  17. Bernews.com says:

    We have to say we are majorly sorry about the huge delay with letting comments through. Tech issues prevented us for hours. Sorry!

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  18. ap says:

    i dont like the new layout bernews, harder to follow the comments now with no breaks between them!

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  19. Curious says:

    Shawn Crockwell is asking for accountability from civil servants! LMAO.

    Is this not the SAME Shawn Crockwell that when he was a civil servant STOLE from the government himself.

    OBA, you all kill me, really you do. I'm not sure you know how stupid you sound.

    Now please fill that $30 million hole in your "economic" plan!

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    • LOL (original) says:

      So I thought PLPers wanted us to forgive this kind of thing in the past like the armed bank robber guy.........

      LOL one good laugh deserves another.

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  20. Wondering says:

    I would have thought the Finance Minister would have drawn up the contract alongside a lawyer - other than Marc Telemaque. This I think would have kept the strings tight on both sides of the pages.

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  21. pebblebeach says:

    This is peanuts compared to the other millions of taxpayer dollars that have been wasted, siphoned off and pocketed by a few....We thank the Ministry of Finance and its leadership for its oversight and financial signatory of those now gone millions...

    It is slowly being swept under the carpet...

    Bermuda, we are drowning slowly but surely and soon we as a country will no longer be under the stewardship of the PLP or the OBA but under those debt note holders or whoever puts together a financial bailout package and throws us a life line...

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  22. specialgirl4 says:

    LOL (original) you are correct "Everyone knows that the Government, don’t take individual ideas, and put them out to tender. If I was a white person and took a good idea, to the Government to solve an issue, and they took my idea and put it out tender, especially if the winner of the tender happened to be black the OBA would have another story." The OBA/UBP is playing politics. As this could have happen under any political party's leadership. 

    Yes !!  thieves and con-artist come in all forms, and Mr. Curtis was put in a position of trust to carry out a contract. The same can be said of "Mr. Shawn Crockwell(OBA/UBP/BDA)" years ago when he was put into a position of trust, but fell astray. No one would have believed he would have done such actions. No matter how well laws are written, persons can always find a way to work around the system. Like no matter how hard you try to lock up your house, a thief can always get in, regardless.  It was of the thought that Mr. Curtis would have held to the conditions as outlined in the contract. However, as we all learn in life not everyone can be trusted. While Civil Servants failed to write up a good solid contract, this opens the door for him to step in the wrong direction. But even if it was written-up tightly, anyone can still find away around it.

    Mark (OBP/UBP/BDA) lawyer was able to find the weakness of the case, and attack the case. This behaviour is clearly representive of human nature, and not an attempt of the government to act in any sinister fashion. But, of course there are those folks who love to take the opportunity to jump at the government and paint them in a negative light to ease their sense of hunger for power.  

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    • Terry says:

      You tal um girl......yah spashheeal.........

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    • Rick Rock says:

      You say "thieves and con-artist come in all forms". Then you go on to compare Curtis with Crockwell. I think it's fair to say you are admitting your view is that both of them are "thieves and con-artists".

      I think that means we agree that the description fits Curtis.

      The thing we disagree on is how it happened. You are saying it was because Curtis 'couldn't be trusted'. No. The reason this happened is because the people in charge at the time, many of whom are still in charge, were treating taxpayers money like their own slush-fund. This was essentially a gift to Curtis, authorized by the senior people in the government, disguised as a 'contract'. You're blaming 'civil servants'. I blame the people who authorized it. The premier, the finance minister (who is also a lawyer). Any other time they boast about how savvy and clever they are. Why was it this time they were so stupid? The answer is: they knew exactly what they were doing.

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    • Honestly says:

      Very true! Lest not forget! Keep bringing the skeletons out!

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  23. Red Flag says:

    Lmawo so after an OBA MP defends Curtis and the ruling is made they come out and say all that BS. If the Former PLP leader is at fault then the OBA MP is just as much at fault for defending him. Just because the verdict came out to where you can paint a good story doesn't take away from the fact that ether way you defended wrong. Thais is the biggest crop of crap I have seen in a long time. We need to take a good look at our justice system. If someone tells me that they want me to pay their bill for them and the money is on the table and they will pay me for my time then I should take the money on the table and pay their bill. I can't say "well they didn't tell me how much to pay and they didn't say I can't keep most of the money for myself so I'm gone take what I want" that's stealing!!!! Do we have to treat grown men like baby's and dictate their every move for them when they handle government funds? Curtis knew full well he was not suppose to use that money for his personal gain and so did his OBA defender. It just so happens that our courts appear to "go by the book" and since their is no specific law against taking the money because nobody outlined what he couldn't do with the money he got off The OBA want to now use it to their advantage. SMH OBA you defended wrong therefore you are wrong. Simple.

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    • Whistling Frog says:

      Money makes the world go round... You wash my back and I'll wash your hands...lol

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  24. Sista says:

    I wonder if the FBI will be interested in speaking to Mr.Curtis? Remember he has also damaged lives in the USA under his fellow ship.How do we as a people get are hard earned money back.Please can some one tell me? Mr. Curtis is a free man now.

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