Mon | Sep 26, 2022

Tug of war over Kamina’s role in $15m Finn deal

Published:Thursday | August 11, 2022 | 12:14 AMLester Hinds/Gleaner Writer
Jamaica’s Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith is under renewed scrutiny amid queries over her role as principal.
Jamaica’s Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith is under renewed scrutiny amid queries over her role as principal.
Opposition Spokesperson Donna Scott-Mottley says revelations that the Finn Partners contract was with Kamina Johnson Smith raise new concerns.
Opposition Spokesperson Donna Scott-Mottley says revelations that the Finn Partners contract was with Kamina Johnson Smith raise new concerns.
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United States-based attorney-at-law Stephen Drummond believes that Finn Partners’ listing of Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith as principal on a controversial filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) holds no legal ramifications for the lawmaker.

Drummond said further that Finn Partners’ reference of the foreign ministry’s Port Royal Street, Kingston, address is standard reporting procedure.

“She hasn’t got to do anything. She is not implicated in anyway. Finn Partners is the entity that must comply with the FARA Act, since it is a US company and was working for a foreign entity,” he said in a Gleaner interview Wednesday.

“They were merely complying with the law,” he said.

Drummond also said that the listing of the senator as the principal has no implications.

“She nor the ministry would not get in trouble with the US. Finn Partners is the one that has to register and report,” he said.

The Opposition People’s National Party has called for full disclosure of the Finn Partners pact, with the spokesperson on justice and information, Senator Donna Scott-Mottley, rejecting assertions that the foreign minister was in the clear.

Scott-Mottley said Wednesday that the document clearly stated that the Finn Partners contract was with Johnson Smith.

The US Department of Justice defines “foreign principal” as a foreign government, a foreign political party, or any person outside the United States and any entity organised under the laws of a foreign country. It may also include a foreign faction or body of insurgents whose legitimacy the United States government has yet to recognise.

A June 6 filing by Finn Partners showed that the firm was paid US$99,000 (J$15 million) by unnamed private funders, described by the Holness administration as corporate Jamaica backers, for the provision of services geared towards her eventual failed bid to unseat Baroness Patricia Scotland as Commonwealth secretary general.

Finn was retained to provide media relations, strategic counsel, media monitoring, thought leadership, and content strategy and development.

The document was signed by Martin Ettlemyer on behalf of Finn Partners.

Scott-Mottley charged that de facto Information Minister Robert Morgan’s public statement – that the $15-million contract was a “private transaction between Jamaican companies and a US company” – exposed Jamaica to direct conflict with the US FARA system because it referenced Johnson Smith personally.

The filing also states that the business of the foreign principal is ‘Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica’.

But Morgan has said that Johnson Smith’s denotation on the FARA filing as principal was merely tantamount to framing her role as a beneficiary. He characterised the calls for frank disclosure as contrived attacks on Johnson Smith.

In a statement issued late Sunday, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) divulged that Johnson Smith’s failed campaign cost taxpayers $18.2 million. That put her overall campaign toll at $33 million.

According to the OPM, the $18.2 million covered air and ground transportation, COVID-19 tests, meals and accommodation, public relations and communications support for event staging, as well as IT support, printing, and photography.

Referencing the Finn Partners arrangement, the OPM statement said that “the Government of Jamaica was not a party to this arrangement, which was secured by corporate Jamaica.”

However, the FARA filing listed no other name but Johnson Smith’s.