Kempe: ‘tirade’ may have broken rules

  • Shadow finance minister Nick Kempe

Shadow finance minister Nick Kempe has questioned whether David Burt misled Parliament when he launched a “verbal tirade” against The Royal Gazette over a sport betting company’s decision not to open an office here.

The company pulled out of Bermuda, according to a speech given in the House of Assembly by the Premier, because a small story ran in The Royal Gazette’s business section about a job advert it placed to recruit six “sports trading operators”.

Mr Burt began his parliamentary remarks on February 15 by claiming the newspaper had “joined hands” with the One Bermuda Alliance to “cast doubt and irreversibly tarnish this government’s work in the diversification of this economy.”

The Premier said: “I speak specifically of the fintech industry.”

Mr Kempe said yesterday: “The Premier took to his feet and proceeded with a verbal tirade against the media, and, in particular The Royal Gazette.

“He attempted to enjoin the OBA and The Royal Gazette and portray them as the catalyst that led to the departure of the company now known as Game Theory Ltd, rather than acknowledge that, to date, fintech, which was widely promoted as the great revenue driver, job creator and source of infrastructure investment, is abysmally languishing somewhere in cyber space.”

The company, a self-described “investment house that places bets on investing in sports businesses”, was not named in the page 11 business story or by Mr Burt.

The Royal Gazette later reported that it was a recently incorporated exempt company called GTL Atlantic Limited.

Disclosures made by the Bermuda Business Development Agency in response to a public access to information request have since revealed that it incorporated in Guernsey as Game Theory and told officials here that it did not view itself as a fintech firm or a business that needed to be regulated.

As reported on Tuesday, a company representative told the BDA in an e-mail: “I’m happy for Game Theory to be an unnamed employer in the fintech space if it helps from a political point of view, but don’t want to be seen as holding ourselves out as a fintech business (in the strictest sense we are not, in my opinion).”

Mr Kempe said the comments were “disconcerting to say the least”.

He said: “So this is how business is now done in Bermuda. If it doesn’t work one way, let’s create a façade to make it work another way.”

Game Theory sought help from the BDA to gain statements from the Bermuda Monetary Authority and the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission confirming that it did not need regulation.

The former provided such a statement, according to the correspondence, but the latter did not.

Mr Kempe said: “Why would the Premier support any business that does not want to come under any form of regulation, particularly in the areas of sports betting, artificial intelligence or fintech? Bermuda prides itself on being a first-rate jurisdiction, not the wild, wild west.”

The Opposition Senate Leader added: “At the very core of the matter, though, is did Premier Burt mislead the House when he made allegations about the reasons Game Theory Ltd left the island? Because it appears that the reasons spouted by the Premier may not ring so close to what the actual truth is.”

He said Tuesday’s article revealed “multiple and significant concerns about business ethics and leadership”.

Mr Burt told a press conference on Monday that the fintech sector had so far created “eight active offices with 31 new jobs”. Game Theory planned to hire between six and ten people locally, according to the correspondence.

The Pati disclosure made by the BDA, amounting to more than 600 hard-copy pages, had almost all names and job titles removed from the documents.

In a decision shared with The Royal Gazette on Monday, BDA chief executive Roland Andy Burrows said he would release the names, job titles and functions of two elected officials who were involved “to assist the public in understanding what transpired”.

Mr Burrows wrote: “My reason for reaching this conclusion is based on my view that the controversy created by the Premier’s speech is of great public interest.”

He wrote: “I am satisfied that a public interest issue arises, namely from what appears to be a verbal attack made by the Premier of Bermuda on The Royal Gazette.

“This, in turn, raises the issue of whether the elected leader of this island has engaged in an attack on the freedom of the press and its right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by Section 9 of the Bermuda Constitution Order 1968.

“While it is not my place to decide the propriety of the Premier’s action, the reporting ... does, in my judgment, require my heightened consideration of the public’s interest in obtaining the disclosure of the records held by the BDA concerning GTL.”

Mr Burrows said the information would not be disclosed until the individuals had the opportunity to appeal his decision to the Information Commissioner. It is understood they have until November 22 to do so.

The Premier said on Monday the public “can be confident that each and every company is properly vetted and confirmed as suitable to do business in Bermuda”.

Mr Burt said last night: “There is no truth or substance to any of the suggestions made by the Opposition in this case and no amount of speculation will give credence to what they have said.

“The facts are very simple: jobs and opportunities were lost and this government is focused on ensuring that damage is repaired and hopefully does not happen again.”

A BMA spokesman declined to answer questions about why the authority viewed Game Theory as not needing regulation.

The spokesman said: “The Bermuda Monetary Authority is restricted under section 67 of the Digital Asset Business Act 2018 from disclosing any information submitted to it in accordance with such Act.”

• Click on the PDF under Related Media to view the BDA’s decisions so far regarding The Royal Gazette’s Pati request on GTL.