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Andrew answers - PM opens accounts to media showing assets of $152 million in 2016

Published:Saturday | June 18, 2016 | 12:00 AMArthur Hall
Prime Minister Andrew Holness looks at His statutory declaration at Jamaica House last Friday.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness pointing to one of his Integrity Commission fillings last Friday.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his wife, Juliet.

Declaring that he had nothing to hide, Prime Minister Andrew Holness last Friday presented sections of the media with the annual reports he has filed with the Integrity Commission since he became a member of the Government in 2007, and vowed to enact legislation to force other political leaders to do the same.

"I think the experience of the questions that have been asked about my assets are important questions for reassuring the public about the integrity of the person who leads, and it is important to declare," said Holness.

"But the process of declaration is not just simply declaring. One has to ensure that one sets a precedent as to how this is done, and it is now within my authority as prime

minister to move legislation to ensure that whoever leads the country will declare their assets, and also those who strive to lead will also declare," added Holness, after displaying documents which showed him with assets of US$472,531 and J$7.1 million when the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was elected to form the Government in September 2007.

At that time, Holness had liabilities, including mortgages on his family house at Great House Boulevard, and credit card debits of US$2,875 and J$3.4 million.

"That year (2007) marked a period of transition in my life. That was when I relinquished my directorship in all my other companies in order to become a minister," Holness told the journalists from The Gleaner, Jamaica Observer and Nationwide News Network.

"If you notice, going forward you don't see any more income coming from business activities. I decided to transition my assets from business and put them into cash and latent investments. This is the period ... that I decided I was going to put my money into stocks, into bonds, into mutual funds and develop my investment pool," added Holness.

With his latest filing submitted to the commission recently, Holness had assets of US$415,026 and J$99.3 million, approximately J$152 million in total, and liabilities of J$34.4 million.

Holness pointed out that he entered Parliament as a minister of government already owning the house at Great House Boulevard, which he bought in 2001 for J$7 million. It was valued at $20 million at the time. That house was bought with help from mortgages from two leading financial institutions.


Operated successful businesses


The prime minister was also the operator of three successful small businesses at the time and owned two high-end motor vehicles.

"Importantly, the declarations show that at the time of becoming a minister of government in 2007, (I) had declared and provided supporting documentation for assets of sufficient value to finance the three properties purchased several years later," said Holness.

The documents showed that by 2008, Holness purchased two other properties in upper St Andrew, an apartment and a plot of land, for a combined total of J$31.2 million without a mortgage, but dips in his US dollar denominated portfolio and other liquid assets reflected the cash used to make the purchase.

'You will see that my US dollar portfolio moved to US$339,500 from US$473,000, in addition to ... what I had claimed back from my investments, which went to the purchase of these properties."

Those properties are registered as owned by the St Lucia-based company Admat, which has as the directors Holness and his two sons.

There is no major change in the assets and liabilities declared by Holness until 2011 when he purchased a property in Beverly Hills for US$300,000. That is the property where he is building what has been dubbed a 'mansion' that sparked the latest interest in the assets of Holness and his wife Juliet.

But the Holness' filing reflects a decline in his liquid assets held at three prominent security dealers from US$460,000 to US$150,000, or just over the amount which the family would tap to purchase the new property.

Work on the 'mansion' started in 2012 and the filing to the Integrity Commission reflects J$7.9 spent on the construction and J$18 million outstanding for payables.

The filing for the year reflects that Holness portfolio declined from US$146,000 to US$106,000 while he sold stocks valued at J$150,000.

Holness also declared a salary of $6.9 million that year, reflecting his changed status from prime minister to opposition leader and additional income of US$10,000 from rental of the apartment that he owned.

The then Opposition leader also acquired a J$10 million home-improvement loan for the family house.

By 2013, Holness acquired a mortgage of J$4.5 million from two leading local financial institutions on the family house, "because no one was willing to provide a mortgage on a property owned by a foreign company".

In his 2015 filing, Holness reported construction expenditure on the Beverly Hills property at just over $60 million, which includes just over $20 million owed to suppliers. Holness later told journalists that he has sold his apartment and will use that money to partially pay out the suppliers.

With papers in hand, Holness pointed out that he had declared a net income of just over J$60 million and US$189,000 to the Integrity Commission for the 2007 to 2016 period, and vowed that he would push for changes in the law for others to also make their declarations public.

"I'm going to review the Integrity Bill, which is coming to Parliament soon, to make a provision that the prime minister, the leader of the Opposition, the finance minister and the person who speaks on finance, their assets must be publicly declared, and that a process is in place by which this is done," said Holness.


Editors note: The Sunday Gleaner has opted not to disclose financial institutions, account numbers or addresses of properties held by the prime minister.