Thu | Dec 9, 2021

Golding bashes AAJ Group's $450m investment in First Rock

Published:Wednesday | October 13, 2021 | 11:52 AM
Golding had previously called for the AAJ board to be sacked and renewed his criticisms in a Twitter post today. 

Opposition Leader Mark Golding has branded as "corrupt", the Airports Authority of Jamaica (AAJ) Group's investment of approximately $450m in First Rock Capital Holdings. 

It adds to pressure on Prime Minister Andrew Holness who declared in July that the Sunday Gleaner's uncovering of the scandal raised issues of "grave concern" but has been silent since. 

Holness said then that he was not fully briefed.

READ: PM reveals 'grave concerns' over AAJ dealings

There's also been little public comment from Transport and Mining Minister Robert Montague who has responsibility for the AAJ. 

Golding had previously called for the AAJ board to be sacked and renewed his criticisms in a Twitter post today. 

The AAJ and its subsidiary, the NMIAL, invested approximately $450m over two stock purchases. 

READ: The facts on AAJ's First Rock deals

Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke told Parliament in July that the first purchase by the public bodies in February 2019 breached the Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act regulations because the agencies did not seek the finance ministry's approval first. 

READ: Breach

The boards also changed the investment policy to accommodate the deals as well as violated the requirement to only buy stocks in "blue chip" or well-established companies.

Additional reporting by The Gleaner in September brought to light board minutes showing that in January 2019 the AAJ board considered a recommendation not to invest in First Rock because the company had "limited operational and financial history". 

And despite the company meeting only one of six eligibility criteria, the boards of the AAJ and the NMIAL went against the recommendation and authorised the investment in February 2019.

The second purchase took place in January 2020. 

But board minutes show that the NMIAL went ahead with that second investment despite concerns from members that it should not be done so because the agency needed the money to fulfill an annual $5 billion request of the finance ministry. 

That is part of the reason why the shares are now being sold, the records say.

READ: AAJ went against board and invested in First Rock, probe reveals

Opposition Spokesman on Transport Mikael Phillips Tuesday tabled 21 questions for Montague to answer in 21 days. 

Among the answers being sought are whether any board member held directorship and shareholership in First Rock and whether those details were declared. 

Phillips also wants to know why the recommendation not to invest taxpayers' money in the St Lucia-registered start-up company that began operations in March 2019 was not heeded. 

The current boards of the AAJ and NMIAL include persons who were involved in the decision to invest public money. 

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