Thad Hollis. *File photo/iStock photo
Thad Hollis. *File photo/iStock photo

More than two months into an internal party investigation, major questions still persist about so-called JetGate.

The OBA’s internal investigation into alleged political donations that led to the downfall of former premier Craig Cannonier may hinge on whether the signatories for the Bermuda Political Action Club’s bank account willingly give the OBA chairman access to the account’s details, according to multiple Bermudian attorneys. 

Among the chief questions that remain: what happened to the money transferred by American businessman Nathan Landow and his associates to the Bermuda Political Action Club? 

Mr Landow himself has told the Bermuda Sun he thought the money would be used to fund an “underground” campaign for the OBA in the run-up to the 2012 election. Others with knowledge of the transactions have made similar assertions, saying the money was used for campaign materials and other campaign necessities. However, no detailed accounting of the account’s transfers has been publicly disclosed.

In fact, as the Bermuda Sun reported previously, only two of the seven American businessmen who reportedly donated to the account — Mr Landow and Washington, DC, area builder Richard Cohen — have been publicly identified. The group reportedly donated between $40,000 and $50,000 each after meeting with the premier in the run-up to the December 2012 general election, which the OBA won. The Opposition PLP have said the meetings between senior OBA officials and the group of Americans, coupled with the donations, raise significant quid pro quo questions; Mr Landow had been interested in prospective casino development on the island.

The fact that the money was wired to the Bermuda Political Action Club, and not directly to One Bermuda Alliance coffers, added to the intrigue. 

Divulging

In May, OBA Chairman Thad Hollis announced there would be an internal investigation into the matter after divulging that his party had not received any funds from Mr Landow. Within a week, as the questions piled up and pressure over JetGate built, Mr Cannonier resigned as Premier.

Numerous OBA officials declined to speak on the record yesterday. The Bermuda Sun understands the findings will not be released this week. A message left for Mr Hollis was not returned.

There is no legal mechanism for Mr Hollis to force the bank or the account signatories to hand over details of the Bermuda Political Action Club account, including transfers, according to numerous Bermudian attorneys. The signatories could, of course, hand over such details willingly. Failing that, Mr Hollis would have no way of legally forcing details of the account to be disclosed. Unlike in jurisdictions such as the US, there is no legal requirement in Bermuda that would force campaign donations or expenditures to be made public.

Several media outlets in Bermuda have named two signatories for the Bermuda Political Action Club Bank of Butterfield account, but we have not been able to independently confirm their involvement.

The Bermuda Police Service and the Department of Public Prosecutions have the authority to legally obtain information on bank accounts, according to one high profile attorney on the island. Both of those bodies, however, would first have to obtain a court order and police said yesterday they have not launched an investigation into the JetGate mess.

“The police have more scope, but the Crown can also make an application for the disclosure; they can go straight to the bank,” said the attorney, who did not want to be named. “None of those things can be done without a court order, though.”

Another attorney said: “I can’t see how the chairman of the party can go look into it. I mean, he can ask the signatories and it’s up to them if they want to comply. If they don’t want to comply, I don’t think there’s any way the chairman could have access to the account. There’s no bank in Bermuda that’s going to release account information to anyone who is not authorized.”

Paul Wright, the Acting Commissioner of Police, yesterday confirmed police have not commenced any investigation into JetGate: “To date, no allegations of criminal conduct have surfaced,” he said through a statement.