More on the Aruba/Namdar bribery scandal … What a tangled web that always comes back to Aruban tourism at all cost no matter what the price. Ethics be damned, its all about the tourism. So what does it take to get a contract in Aruba?
Amigoe: I was introduced to Effy Namdar
ORANJESTAD – Tourism-minister Edison Briesen says that he had an encounter with Effy Namdar on August 21st, 2006. Royal Caribbean International arranged the introduction. The cruise company wanted an agreement between Aruba and Namdar for the development of the harbour, said Briesen in a press conference yesterday.
He also admits that he had contact with Michael Williams till September 2003. The alleged bribery letter was addressed to Williams. “The contact disintegrated due to problems with his water sport business and an incident with Minister Booshi Wever.”
However, Amigoe was allowed access to the documents last week, from which it appears that Briesen still corresponded with Williams up till and including December 13th, 2004.
The letters were about a permit for a stand for a water sport business in front of Occidental Grand Aruba that Williams wanted to start with a partner. The documents show that Williams was appealing to Briesen to grant him the permit as soon as possible. ”It is possible that letters were sent later, but the contact was no longer the same since 2003”, said Briesen in a reaction. Briesen said during the press conference that Williams was indeed his campaign-leader in 2001 and attracted funds for the election campaign. “Of course, you have to be very careful with that. But at that time, I have never seen a letter from Namdar, or have accepted money as is asserted in the letter.”
Briesen says that the contact with the Namdar Group is of August last year. The encounter was organized by Royal Caribbean International, and other than Briesen, also the director of Aruba Ports Authority, Alfonso Boekhoudt was present.
“Royal Caribbean wanted to introduce us to one of their business partners. Later, they wanted us to sign an agreement with Namdar, but I refused. I repeated the same again to John Tercek in Miami (during the Seatrade Convention last March, red.). Tercek is the vice-president Commercial Developments of Royal Caribbean, and I told him that I do not sign anything with third parties.”
“Why was Prime Minister Nelson Oduber so sure that he doesn’t know Namdar?” Briesen: “I haven’t really talked to the Prime Minister about this. I don’t know the contacts of the other ministers either.”
Oduber said in public that he does not do business with the Namdar Group and Briesen subscribes to this. “As I said earlier, I already told Royal Caribbean this last year.” The minister assented though that if the assignment for the harbour is allotted to the company, it will contract other parties for the execution. “I cannot control that.” Briesen says that no restriction on cooperation with third parties is included in the just signed declaration of intent.
PROJECT WORTH MILLIONS
According to the Tourism-minister, four parties have shown interest in the development of the harbour area; Trusam/Fresno, Barton Group, Cortez Group, and Royal Caribbean. One of the ministers that was present at the presentation of Royal Caribbean’s plans told Amigoe the day before yesterday that other than a cruise terminal, the cruise company also wants to build a hotel and casino. Briesen confirms this, but also says that he ‘is absolutely against another hotel and casino in the harbour area. Let them go negotiate their passengers’ stay-over with the new owner of the Bushiri hotel.”
The minister says that Royal Caribbean’s plan is an investment of approximately 400 million florins. In three months, after the negotiation, we will know what Royal Caribbean is allowed to do.