Ng Lap Seng and the Dominica connectionBy TDN Wire StaffOctober 20 2015 10:50 A.M
Skerrit after signing in Macau with Lap Seng to his right and Theresa Liu to his left. Ashe can be seen to the left of Liu
For years now the dealings between Ng Lap Seng and Dominica’s prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit has been well known in that country. In October 2009 in open court in the BVI Skerrit vowed to get $20 million from Lap Seng to settle an outstanding matter in the Layou River Hotel fiasco.
Felix Chen a Taiwanese millionaire had earlier given $20 million for a stake in the hotel project but when both his money and stake disappeared into thin air he sued the Dominica government forcing Skerrit’s appearance at the courts in the BVI.
Emails released to the public between Dominica’s ambassador to China David Hsiu and Skerrit revealed that the promised help from Lap Seng would be in exchange for the famous ‘Portsmouth Project’, which involved the setting up of casinos at a hotel in Portsmouth and one at the Layou facility.
In an email dated October 26, 2007 Hsiu writes to Skerrit “I write to report to you that I will be returning to Beijing tomorrow and prior to that I will be visiting Macau to speak to Mr. Wu [Lap Seng] as we have discussed in our meeting. In this regard may I remind you to provide me with a copy of your letter to Mr. Wu as promised in our meeting, setting out the total area of the land to be allotted to his company, the total consideration and the policies complimentary to the project.”
Importantly, Lap Seng would also be allowed to build a Chinese community which in the words of Hsiu “the ultimate plan of the Portsmouth Project was to introduce small and medium enterprises from China to the Caribbean via Dominica.”
“The Resort facility including the grant of casino licenses for both the Portsmouth as well as Layou projects would undoubtedly attract tourism from all over the world for the country,” Hsiu added.
Neither the grandiose plans of Skerrit, Lap Seng and Hsiu appear to have materialized nor as far as we can ascertain did Chen receive his money some 13 years after making that contribution.
In 2002, Lap Seng personally visited Dominica on the invitation of Grace Tonge who at the time owned the Layou River Hotel and who was responsible for selling passports purportedly to invest in the hotel.
On March 25, 2002 in the presence of prime minister Pierre Charles, Lap Seng signed an agreement with Grace Tonge pledging to pump $22.5 million into the construction of the hotel.
However despite passport sales of close to $ 200 million, and Lap Seng's agreement the hotel was never built and the Dominican public are still vainly awaiting some accounting of where the proceeds went. At the time Lap Seng appeared to be interested in investing in the hotel but apparently never followed through.
Dominicans were however stunned to learn of the role that Lap Seng reportedly played in having Dominica switch from diplomatic relations with Taiwan to a firm and unwavering relationship with China.
In 2003, Skerrit at the time a junior minister in the Cabinet of prime minister Pierre Charles made a clandestine trip to Barbados without the knowledge or support of Charles to meet with the Chinese authorities. Months later following the untimely death of Charles after been in office for just over three years, Skerrit assumed the post of prime minister and immediately formalized relations with China.
In a stunning admission first reported by the Wall Street Journal, Lap Seng reportedly told associates that he “helped persuade the Caribbean Commonwealth of Dominica to switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taiwan.”
Lap Seng is known to have graciously hosted Skerrit on his numerous visits to Macau since becoming prime minister. Just days before Tropical Storm Erika ravaged Dominica, Skerrit showed up in Macau and on August 26, 2015 signed a Letter of Commitment with Lap Seng under which the Sun Kian IP Group Foundation would fund the establishment of a Technology Transfer Facility on Dominica to serve the Caribbean and Latin America. The Letter of Commitment was also signed by Ms. Teresa Liu, Division Chief at the UN Office on South-South Cooperation.
Lap Seng, a prominent Macau real estate developer and billionaire is a farmer who rose to prominence running businesses in that country. U.S. prosecutors has since charged him with paying more than $500,000 in bribes to John Ashe, a former U.N. Ambassador for Antigua and Barbuda and former president of the U.N. General Assembly who was also charged.
While it is clear that Lap Seng never fulfilled his promises to invest his millions in Dominica it is clear that he continued to wine and dine the country’s prime minister just weeks before his arrest in New York and over a period of 13 years.