NGO calls on BPC to “come clean” on unpaid licensing fees

NGO calls on BPC to “come clean” on unpaid licensing fees
The Stena Forth drill ship.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Joseph Darville, chairman of Save The Bays (STB), one of two organizations granted leave for judicial review proceedings against Bahamas Petroleum Company’s (BPC) exploratory oil well, yesterday called on the company to “come clean” about its unpaid license fees.

“We condemn BPC CEO Simon Potter’s flippant response to the very serious revelation that his company has not yet fulfilled its license fee obligation to the people of The Bahamas,” Darville wrote in a statement.

Joseph Darville, chairman of the non-profit organization Save The Bays.

“As usual, Mr Potter seeks to downplay any and all concerns raised about BPC’s behavior, which remains extremely worrying on a number of fronts.

“He can dismiss the matter all he wants; the fact is, in the environmental approval granted by the government to BPC back in February 2020, without which the company could not have lawfully begun exploratory drilling, the minister of environment informed the company that it must pay all outstanding license fees through the end of 2020 within 60 days.

“The attorney general of The Bahamas has now revealed that almost one full year later, BPC has still not fulfilled this obligation, remaining in breach of the 60-day deadline for months.

“And yet, it raced ahead to begin drilling in the face of what it knew was mounting a local concern, including notice that a court case — to review the issuance of that very same environmental approval — was going to be filed.”

In May 2020, BPC said it had reached an agreement in principle with the government over unpaid license fees for periods dating back to 2018.

The BPC Investment Fund, created as a vehicle for Bahamians to invest in the company’s shares only, was listed on the Bahamas International Securities Exchange (BISX) and raised around $900,000.

Attorney General Carl Bethel reportedly told The Tribune recently the government and the company were reconciling how much BPC owes.

During court proceedings, which led to the Supreme Court granting the judicial review, BPC’s counsel indicated that now that drilling had begun at its exploratory well, it would pose more risk to stop drilling, a process counsel initially suggested was “impossible to stop”.

Darville said the Bahamian people continue to watch closely and observe what he called BPC’s “callous and cynical behavior”.

He expressed grave concern with BPC Deputy Chairman James Smith’s, a major shareholder, suggestion that resistance to the company is futile.

Darville asked: “Who do they think they are talking to?

“This is a sovereign nation of laws and we cannot and will not be bullied in this manner.

“We call on BBC to come clean. Simon Potter says there is a minuscule amount of funds not yet paid.

“Precisely how much would that be?

“He claims that BPC has paid millions in licensing fees over the years.

“According to the terms of their own license, they should’ve paid an excess of $10 million by now.

“They must now confirm how much they actually paid.

“This is a particularly important point, as a few months ago, BPC announced that it had settled unpaid licensing fees of an unspecified amount for $900,000, which it had just raised from Bahamian investors.

“This company has us paying its bills, yet refuses to cast any light of transparency on the matter whatsoever.

“This is simply not good enough.”

Darville insisted that the Bahamian people will not be taken for fools and the organization is waiting for BPC to reveal the precise state of its dealings with the government regarding any and all licensing fees or “be forced to do so by the authorities”.

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.