Can Danny & The Mobster Deliver for
By Andrew Jennings
Sunday 22 March, 2009
There’s $25 billion worth of construction business on offer to get Ukraine ready to co-host the 2012 Euro championships. If you want a share you must talk to Mark Blinder, a man who denies Mafia associations. Mr Blinder will then introduce you to Daniel Mejia.
Concerns that Ukraine’s stadiums may not be ready for 2012 are receding. The crucial issue now is infrastructure - the roads and bridges between host cities. Without them, Ukraine can’t jointly deliver with Poland.
Mr Mejia – born in the Dominican Republic, operating in Colombia and based in Miami - convinced Ukrainian officials that in these difficult times he has access to vast amounts of money to invest in 2,000 km of new roads. Last year his Sun Land Group promised to raise $7 billion to build new bridges needed for 2012.
As he signed the contract Mr Mejia said, ‘We believe our experience and knowledge of credit resources positions Sun Land to successfully complete these projects on time.’ Asked this week, 13 months later, if this is still the case, he said it was now ‘dependent on the government.’
Has the $7 billion been raised? Mejia replies, ‘the Ukraine government must complete all approvals.’ Then the money will flow, he insists, through a ‘private placing structure, directly handled by our company.’ He declines to identify banks likely to provide the money.
After the ceremony Mr Mejia issued a press release trumpeting the presence of ‘Mr. Motoo Kusakabe from the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.’
This was encouraging. If the contract was backed by such a prestigious institution, surely it was bound to succeed. But last week the EBRD denied ‘any formal or informal relationship with the Sun Land Group Corporation’ and said that Mr Kusakabe was not from their bank. He worked for a Japanese bank official and attended in his private capacity. Mr Mejia explained this week that ‘Mr Kusakabe is our distinguished friend.’
Mr Mejia’s Sun Land business took off in the Dominican Republic with a $76 million deal in 2000 to supply military equipment. His good relationship with president Hipolito Mejia secured a $115 million public works contract the following year. Worries about Sun Land surfaced in local newspapers and there was uproar when it was revealed how the money was being raised for his projects.
Critics claimed officials were creating financial notes – a kind of IOU - that Mejia could sell abroad, pocketing commissions, according to the contract, of nearly 14%. This caused upset when the country allegedly broke public spending promises to the IMF. The Miami Herald termed it one of the President’s ‘major scandals.’
Sun Land’s dealings, were soon being described as ‘controversial’ and ‘questionable’ and even ‘jeopardising the state.’ Another Mejia contract was hailed as the ‘Scandal of the Year.’
Sun Land was charging $130 million to re-equip the country’s police and other services. Two companies Mejia said were supplying equipment couldn’t be traced. Critics said cars and motorbikes were overpriced and alleged Mejia was charging $10,000 dollars for $1,000 computers.
Jorge Pineda, Editor of Dominican Today said, ‘We had never heard of the Sun Land company. There was no public tendering and we couldn’t understand how they got the contracts. Because of robust reporting by our media and the public outcry that followed, the Government had to cancel Sun Land's last contract.’
Daniel Mejia rejects all criticisms, denies his prices were inflated and insists, ‘The contract is not dead. That would require an act of Congress.’
Continued . . .