Smith remains locked in court battle over Crown land matter
“I really find it in poor taste that both parties would go behind my back”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamian businessman Toby Smith yesterday asserted that until the Supreme Court delivers a judgment in his Crown land dispute case, he intends to proceed as if he has a valid lease.
His comments came as Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCL) executives confirmed that the group has received an executed Crown land lease and seabed lease associated with its Paradise Island Beach Club development.
Smith said in a statement yesterday he was “appalled” that the government had gone ahead and executed a Crown land lease with RCL, indicating that RCL President Michael Bayley had reached out to him for reconciliation talks a mere three weeks ago.
“They requested we sit down and talk, and now in the midst of our talks, they continue to pursue a crown land lease,” said Smith.
“Despite RCL and the government knowing that this was before the courts, both parties entered into an agreement for land currently in litigation.
“My opinion is until the Supreme Court reaches a conclusion and a ruling is made, I’m continuing on as if I have a valid lease to the land. I really find it in poor taste that both parties would go behind my back.”
Russell Benford, the cruise line’s vice president of government relations for the Americas, responding to Eyewitness News inquiries, stated: “Pursuant to the January 2, 2020 letter of agreement received from the government of The Bahamas, Royal Caribbean Group has received the executed Crown land lease and seabed lease associated with the Royal Beach Club project on Paradise Island.
“As steps in the project approval process continue, we will engage and work with local interests on business opportunities as the project moves forward.”
Royal Caribbean is investing $50 million to develop its beach club destination, a move that is expected to generate an extra $26 million in visitor spend.
Smith has proposed a $2 million restoration of Paradise Island’s lighthouse, and initiated legal action against the government for failing to give effect to his Crown land lease.
He is embroiled in an ongoing court battle with the government over a Crown land lease agreement that covers land included in Royal Caribbean’s lease.
He asserts that he was granted a valid Crown land lease for the land on which the lighthouse is situated and the area at Colonial Beach for his “beach break” destination.
In his statement yesterday, Smith noted: “I am pleased to have spoken to Philip Brave Davis, the leader of the opposition, who has stated that the Progressive Liberal Party’s view is that that Crown land should be for Bahamians. He has openly and publicly stated that any agreement done for Crown land with Royal Caribbean will be canceled.”
Smith also said he will continue with his legal action.
“I will be patient regardless of however long it takes. I am confident that the Paradise Island Light House and Beach Club will come out victorious. I have every faith in God that that will be the case,” he said.