Back in 2014, the announcement of the Puerto Azul project made major news after a delegation of Ministers including Erwin Contreras and Manuel Herredia and the politically connected including the wife of Prime Minister, Kim Simpliss-Barrow had travelled to the Cannes Film Festival in France to be wined and dined by the purported investors. The project also attracted opposition from environmentalists because it proposed to build a mega resort with hotel, golf course, villas and spa on two cayes along the Lighthouse Reef atolls. The Government welcomed the investment idea and even the entire Cabinet was ready to put the weight of its support on it.
But today, international reports are revealing that the Puerto Azul project was part of a Ponzi scheme and that the so-called investor simply duped the Barrow Administration into supporting the idea.
Reports from Swiss media are that Domenico Giannini, the main man behind Puerto Azul, and Fabio La Rosa, have been arrested by Italian Police for being involved in an illegal, international scam in which they extorted money from over 200 private investors under the name of the luxury development Puerto Azul. The arrest warrant was issued by the financiers of the Provincial Command of Varese against seven persons. Five were sent to prison while two remained under house arrest. Both Giannini and La Rosa were among those sent to prison. During the arrest, officers also confiscated over 18 million Euros in assets (26 properties, 27 land shares of 10 companies, 6 cars and 18 bank accounts).
The entire fiasco has left a black eye on Belize as the Swiss media house, Varese News is reporting quote “they sold to unsuspecting citizens a dream project for the construction of a hotel complex of extra luxury “8 stars”, known as “Puerto Azul”. Investors had been made to believe that it was a luxurious resort to be built in a Caribbean atoll, off the coast of Belize. Apparently the development was nothing more than a farce, as the entire project was just a means to commit fraud and embezzlement.” End quote.
Reports suggest that even Hollywood stars who invested in the Puerto Azul development were caught up in the fraud. Celebrity investors like John Travolta and Andrea Bocelli were completely unaware of Giannini and La Rosa’s real plans, and were even used to promote the Puerto Azul concept.
Varese News is reporting that the method employed by the association included the signing of contracts and artificial simulators, created in order to ensnare customers and induce investment, through transfers made on “bank accounts”, interposed between accounts of the organization (located in Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belize) and customer accounts, starting with the primary purpose of evading the supervision of credit institutions over its promoter’s mandated and customers portfolio location.
We don’t know if the Italian authorities will be contacting either Ministers Herredia or Contreras or Mrs. Barrow as part of their criminal investigations into this Ponzi scheme.