KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 28, IWN — In an ironic twist, a producer working on the BBC programme about Harlequin, the company that owns Buccament Bay Resort, has been suspended amidst an allegation that he attempted to “bribe” a Harlequin consultant.
The news came to light on Thursday, four days after the programme, dubbed “The Great Savings Wipeout”, was scheduled to have been broadcast.
BBC journalist Matthew Hill and Paul Kenyon, who worked on the programme, had put to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves in Barbados on Feb. 17 an allegation that Dave Ames, chair of Harlequin, had gone to Gonsalves’ office with a briefcase of money and left without it.
Both Ames and Gonsalves have denied the allegations.
Gonsalves further said the journalists were “rude” and “accosted” him during their encounter — on board a landed aircraft and wrote to the BBC complaining about the encounter.
Matthew Chapman is producer of the Panorama episode about Harlequin.
The Times reported that Chapman emailed Sean Ghent, a Harlequin security consultant, describing himself as an award-winning Panorama producer, and saying: “I was wondering if I could be a bit cheeky here. It’s unlikely that Ames and maybe Harlequin will be around for much longer, nor will he have money to pay people for much longer.
“There are a long list of creditors already I understand. Panorama and the BBC is always using security and protection officers and although I cannot guarantee anything we may be able to put things your way.
“Or we could work together on stories. It’s always good to keep one eye on the future! How would you feel helping me out in a totally confidential way.”
Ghent told The Times he was shocked by the producer’s approach to him via the Linkedin website on March 13.
“He was suggesting my job might disappear. It seemed to me he was trying to offer me an enticement,” Ghent said.
The BBC’s guidelines say the media entity has a “zero-tolerance” approach to bribery and is committed to acting professionally and with integrity in all its business dealings.
The BBC said it had initiated disciplinary procedures and was “reviewing the facts”.
“In light of information received late in the production process of this film, the BBC decided to postpone broadcast. We are currently reviewing the facts. As a result a member of the team has been suspended and a disciplinary procedure is under way,” the BBC said in a statement.
The BBC last weekend removed from its website a promo, for the Panorama episode.
The promo said, “A twice-bankrupt, former double glazing salesman from Essex has collected an estimated quarter of a billion pounds from investors, which is now at risk. In one of Britain’s biggest ever pension scandals, he promised to build luxury rental homes in the Caribbean, some on the island of St Vincent, where the film Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed. Wimbledon tennis champion Pat Cash and golfing legend Gary Player helped promote the property scheme. However, reporter Paul Kenyon finds most of the planned properties have yet to be built and there are disputes over planning permission and land ownership.”
Journalist Matthew Hill told I-Witness News on Monday that he couldn’t say why the programme was no longer going to broadcast and that he “can’t comment … at the moment” about when or if the programme will be broadcast.
But a well-placed source, citing a BBC insider, told I-Witness News that the BBC is hoping that the programme will air in the near future.
The situation was described as “sensitive” at the moment, the source further said, adding that the impression was that the BBC was still gathering information.