“FAKE! Bogus! Not true!”
These were some of the words used yesterday by an incensed Finance Minister Colm Imbert as he challenged Opposition Senator Wade Mark to produce evidence to support the United National Congress’ (UNC) claims there was corruption in the acquisition of the US$17.4 million Galleons Passage fast ferry. Imbert issued this challenge as he categorically refuted all of Mark’s claims during debate on a motion in the Senate.
Opposition senators groaned when Imbert began his response to Mark. “It must be the spirit,” quipped Imbert. What followed was a heated exchange, with Imbert and Mark trading words across the floor.
“Don’t get vex,” Mark told Imbert. “I must get vex. It’s foolishness!” Imbert countered. Using documents in his possession and referring to his iPad, Imbert countered every claim made by Mark about the events which led to the Galleons Passage’s purchase last year. Imbert declared, “I call on Senator Mark, back up your false allegations! Back them up!” Observing a recurring decimal in the UNC’s allegations was the use of a broker in the vessel’s purchase, Imbert challenged Mark, “to produce the paper trail to show where that fictional broker was in any way involved with the acquisition of this vessel.”
Referring to a matter which happened when Mark was Speaker of the House of Representatives, Imbert quipped, “He can’t.” He reiterated the Galleons Passage’s owner, “was corresponding directly with Government” to sell the vessel. Imbert said because of this, “there was no broker.” Sea Lease Limited is the Galleons Passage’s seller and not Sea Transport Corporation of Australia. Imbert said Stuart Ballantyne is Sea Lease’s primary officer. Showing a copy of the purchase document between Sea Lease and the Nidco for the Galleons Passage, Imbert said British law firm Haynes and Boone determined this was a, “straightforward commercial transaction. So I don’t know what all this tra la la is about!”
Imbert said he made it “crystal clear” six months ago that Government did not use an evaluation report by Oceanic Design and Survey (ODS) to buy the Galleons Passage. “I spoke in English! My words were clear.”
Referring to an evaluation done by Schulte Marine Concept, Imbert said, “They have valued this vessel at US$35 million.” Government was fortunate to purchase the vessel for US$17.4 million.” That was good enough for us,” Imbert said.
Steel cutting for the vessel happened on March 4, 2015. Steel laying happened on April 21, 2015. The Galleons Passage was launched on September 16, 2016. “You know what launching means? You put the hull in the water,” Imbert said.
This is followed by the installation of the engine, installing te deck, outfitting, the instrumentation, electrics, transmission, mast and superstructure.
Given this sequence of events, Imbert said the Galleons Passage was never “launched and sailing all over the China Sea from 2016 to 2017.” In his contribution, Mark claimed the US$17.4 million payment for the Galleons Passage went into a private account. Mark said the UNC would write the Australian government, securities exchange commission and law enforcement if Imbert did not provide the Senate will all documents pertaining to the Galleons Passage’s purchase.