NASSAU, Bahamas -- A legal battle could be looming between the Bahamas government and the US-based PowerSecure, which manages Bahamas Power and Light (BPL).

The government intends to take legal action against PowerSecure if certain matters are not addressed within 30 days, including the reimbursement of a reported $2 million that has gone missing from the company, the National Review reported.

In February 2016, the Bahamas government signed a controversial five-year management services agreement with PowerSecure for a minimum of $10 million and possibly as much as $25 million, to manage electricity generation, transmission and distribution for Bahamas Power and Light (BPL), a new power company wholly owned by the debt-strangled Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC). BPL has been mandated to reduce the cost of electricity and bring about a more reliable service.

The base compensation for the five-year contract is $2 million per year, and BPL must achieve predefined key performance indicators (KPIs) related to cost reductions, reliability improvements and customer service enhancements in order for PowerSecure to receive “potential additional performance-based compensation”.

The Bahamas government entered into the agreement with PowerSecure after a lengthy and controversial bidding process and despite the fact that almost two years earlier an investor in shares of PowerSecure filed a lawsuit against the company over alleged violations of federal securities laws in connection with allegedly false and misleading statements made between March 10, 2014 through May 7, 2014.

The plaintiff claimed that the defendants made allegedly materially false and/or misleading statements by misrepresenting and failing to disclose certain adverse facts, including that PowerSecure lacked the experience and internal controls necessary to expand its distributed generation business into larger contracts.

The choice to bring in a company encumbered by securities fraud lawsuits was justified at the time by then Prime Minister Perry Christie saying that he had gone to the highest levels of the US government to assure himself of the company’s integrity. Those assurances were apparently given by US Secretary of State John Kerry

Also, the US Embassy took the unusual step of publicly commenting on the selection of PowerSecure. In a statement by US chargé d’affaires Lisa Johnson, the embassy applauded the announcement “that the government has agreed to engage in final negotiations with US-based PowerSecure on the content of an agreement to restructure and manage the Bahamas Electricity Corporation.”

The apparent influence and/or intervention by the US State Department in the PowerSecure contract has never been satisfactorily explained. At the time, the State Department deflected requests for comment from Caribbean News Now to the Department of Commerce, which also failed to respond to such requests. 

Furthermore, almost two years later, the State Department has likewise failed to respond substantively to a request for relevant records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Some local observers of the bidding process pointed to a possible conflict of interest between a BEC board member and his brother, one of the Cabinet group choosing the successful bidder.

BEC has itself been plagued with controversy over the years. Constant power outages, threats of strikes and protests by the Bahamas Workers and Electrical Union and a belated payment of some $100,000 for past due electrical bills by companies connected to its then chairman were just some of the events that engulfed the debt-ridden company, prompting some local residents to refer to BEC as “Buy Enough Candles”.

Then, just over two weeks after PowerSecure International signed the management agreement with The Bahamas government, the company was sold to Atlanta-based Southern Company for $431 million. Under the terms of the deal, PowerSecure became a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company.

According to local media, The Bahamas government was completely unaware at the time that PowerSecure was at the same time discussing terms of a potential acquisition.

BEC is also no stranger to bribery allegations and last year local businessman Fred Ramsey was convicted of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to steer government contracts to a French power company.

While a member of the board of BEC, Ramsey was paid $221,457 for his help in influencing the award of a contract for generators to Alstom Espana SA.

The new administration is reportedly clearly unhappy with PowerSecure and it is said to be examining how best to end the agreement with the company and put it fully back under the control of Bahamians.

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(Trinidad Express) – A 32-year-old flight attendant has been fined $55,000 on three charges in connection with attempting to illegally import US$39,054.

Venosh Maraj, of St Augustine, was charged with three offences: the import of prohibited goods—a quantity of cash at US$39,054; importing said cash in a manner to deceive Customs and Excise officials; and failing to declare the said cash.

He pleaded guilty to the offences when the matter was called before Magistrate Gloria Jasmath in the Arima Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

Maraj was represented by attorneys Reynold Waldropt and Jeron Joseph.

After a plea of mitigation was submitted on Maraj’s behalf, he was fined $15,000, or default serve 18 months hard labour on the first charge; $25,000 or three years hard labour on the second and $15,000, or 18 months hard labour the third charge.

Maraj was given a month to pay all three fines.

Maraj, who has been a flight attendant with Caribbean ¬Airlines for five years, was arrested at Piarco International Airport on August 13.

He was on a Caribbean Airlines flight which had left New York, USA, flown to Georgetown, Guyana, and then to Trinidad.

He was held with the money when trying to leave Customs at the Piarco International Airport.

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(V.I. Consortium) ST. THOMAS — Governor Kenneth Mapp surprisingly took a jab at the three top U.S. ratings agencies on talk radio on Tuesday, revealing to Virgin Islanders that his administration has ended its relationship with the firms — among them Standard and Poor’s, Fitch and Moody’s — while sending a clear message that his administration no longer wanted to hear from them.

“I’m not taking on the issues of the rating agencies, they will not pretty much have more to write about the territory. We’ve severed our ties with them; there’s no need,” Mr. Mapp said on WSTA 1340 AM. “We don’t have market access, so it makes very little sense for the rating agencies to come telling you every other month you can’t borrow no money.”

Mr. Mapp’s sidelining of the ratings agencies represents the first such move, at least in public, by his administration. Not too long ago, the governor pointed to Fitch’s decision to maintain a negative watch on the territory’s bonds in July, pointing out that the action was not a downgrade. In fact, the governor said Fitch’s decision to maintain the negative watch was a good sign. One month later, Fitch downgraded the territory’s bonds further into junk status and issued a negative outlook. Its downgrade was followed by that of S&P, which also placed a negative outlook on the bonds.

Mr. Mapp said the territory would no longer rely on the capital market to bridge its annual structural deficit, which averages over $100 million. Instead, austerity measures will have to be implemented, he said, if the territory is to survive.

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(Barbados Today) In what attorney-at-law Edmund Hinkson described as a landmark ruling, the Court of Appeal today upheld a 2015 decision by the Employments Rights Tribunal, which had found that Chefette Restaurants Limited had unfairly dismissed its assistant manager Orlando Harris back on January 27, 2014.

However, the local fast food chain gained a moral victory when the court lowered – albeit slightly – the amount that the tribunal had awarded to Harris.

Hinkson, who represented the former worker, said the court’s decision was “a stern warning to employers that their employees have rights, which must be respected at all times”.

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NEW YORK (AP) -- Walmart is diving into voice-activated shopping. But unlike online leader Amazon, it's not doing it alone.

The world's largest retailer said Wednesday it's working with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of items from laundry detergent to Legos for voice shopping through Google Assistant. The capability will be available in late September.

It's Google's biggest retail partnership - and the most personalized shopping experience it offers - as it tries to broaden the reach of its voice-powered assistant Home speaker. And it underscores Walmart's drive to compete in an area dominated by Amazon's Alexa-powered Echo device.

"Voice shopping is becoming a more important part of everyday shopping behavior," said Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart's U.S. e-commerce business.

The voice-activated devices are becoming more mainstream as they become more accessible. Even Apple has one coming out this year. Walmart has said Google's investment in natural language processing and artificial intelligence will help make voice-activated shopping even more popular.

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