James Packer, the Australian billionaire who is reportedly a target of money laundering investigations in multiple jurisdictions, but who was approved by Government to be co-developer of a major hotel project in Barbuda, which caused Country Risk to be substantially elevated for Antigua & Barbuda, as the project is moving forward. His controversial and spotty record in international business should have disqualified him for any involvement in the economic recovery of Barbuda, and the unexplained governmental malfeasance in office for accepting him, which is more akin to gross negligence, can be laid solely at the feet of the present administration.
Didn't anyone in the present Government examine the enhanced due diligence information upon this individual ? It appears that Government simply chose to ignore what was found, in order to reverse the recent trend, where foreign investors gave Antigua a wide berth, due to fears about Government intentions towards asserting partial ownership of foreign-funded projects, but this is going from the frying pan into the fire.
More importantly, allowing Packer a developer role will put Antigua & Barbuda in the cross-hairs of a number of American law enforcement agencies, as well as regulatory agencies. Any resultant criminal cases, involving Antiguans, or foreign investors, could result in sufficient adverse publicity to damage its precious and irreplaceable tourism industry.
Does Antigua really want to be under the same intense microscope as the time when it was the subject of multiple drug money laundering investigations in the 1980s Miami Vice era ? Allowing a player like Packer to lead the Barbuda project might just kick-start a whole level of attention of the type that nobody in Antigua wants visited upon their nation in the coming years.
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