Opposition Leader Marc Bean is in a business venture with controversial Bahamian entrepreneur Craig Flowers. *File photo/photo courtesy of the Nassau Guardian
Opposition Leader Marc Bean is in a business venture with controversial Bahamian entrepreneur Craig Flowers. *File photo/photo courtesy of the Nassau Guardian

Opposition Leader Marc Bean is in a business venture with controversial Bahamian entrepreneur Craig Flowers.

The duo incorporated Wellington (Bermuda) Ltd last summer, according to filings at the Bermuda Registrar of Companies.

The filing indicates that Mr Bean holds 3,000 of the company’s 5,000 shares, while Mr Flowers, of Paradise Island in The Bahamas, owns the remaining 2,000.

Mr Flowers was convicted in 2011 of running an illegal gaming operation, according to The Nassau Guardian. He appealed that conviction, but the appeal has not yet been heard. That could happen within the next two to three months, his attorney, Alfred Sears, told us yesterday.

Mr Bean’s wife, attorney Simone Smith-Bean, said she was the one who suggested Mr Flowers invest in Bermuda: “The company [Wellington] was incorporated for Mr Flowers to expand his international ventures to Bermuda if he so chose to,” she said.

Ms Smith-Bean told us Mr Flowers is not interested in expanding his web shop operation — the type of gaming that ensnarled him in a legal tussle in The Bahamas — to Bermuda. She also said her husband was not aware of Mr Flowers’s legal problems before agreeing to apply for the incorporation with him.

“He is a good man,” Ms Smith-Bean said of Mr Flowers, who is a noted philanthropist, successful businessman and trailblazing aviation pilot. “He would come here and do well and help people. He would be beneficial to Bermuda.”

Asked about Mr Flowers’s business venture with Mr Bean yesterday, Mr Sears said: “I have no personal knowledge of that. My firm’s representation has not extended to what he’s doing in Bermuda.”

Mr Flowers runs so-called ‘web shops’ in The Bahamas, which allow gamblers to bet on American lottery numbers.

If a controversy over American lottery numbers sounds familiar, it’s because Mr Bean was embroiled in a rumpus over his betting shop operation — called Paradise Games — here in Bermuda earlier this month.

The legality of allowing customers to bet on numbers drawn from US state lotteries was questioned and police investigated — a move that Mr Bean’s Progressive Labour Party said was politically motivated. The betting shop, which opened earlier this year on Court Street, has said it is in full compliance with the law and that it was suing The Royal Gazette for its report on the matter.

Ms Smith-Bean emphasized Mr Flowers has no role in the management or financing of Paradise Games. Neither did he act as any sort of consultant for the business.

According to The Nassau Guardian, in 2011 a Bahamian magistrate confiscated more than $800,000 worth of proceeds that were seized during a sting at one of Mr Flowers’s web shops two years prior. The money, according to the judge at the time, was the fruit of illegal gambling.

Mr Flowers was convicted of permitting his premises to be used for a lottery and promoting, organizing and conducting a lottery. The offences came under the Lotteries and Gaming Act. He was given the option of paying $10,000 in fines or spending two years in prison.

The Bahamian government is currently in the midst of “regularizing the web shop gaming industry”, Mr Sears told us. Mr Sears added that his client, Mr Flowers, is a part of that process. He, along with casino operators in The Bahamas, are currently discussing with the government the best way to regulate the industry.

'An unregulated industry'

Mr Sears says the Lotteries and Gaming Act — the law Mr Flowers was convicted of violating — is currently ambiguous and that the laws are expected to change within coming months.

“There’s uncertainty as to whether it covers the activities of this unregulated industry,” Mr Sears said.

Mr Flowers’s colourful past is not limited to his gaming operations. He is a highly successful businessman and noted philanthropist; for instance, he donated $100,000 to emergency management services following Hurricane Ike in 2008. He is also a trailblazer in the field of aviation; he was the first black pilot to fly for Northeast Airlines in the late 1960s.

Then there’s the Gaddafi link — a part of his bio that is perhaps the most eyebrow-raising.
Mr Sears confirmed that Mr Flowers helped establish the national airline of Libya during the reign of Muammar Gaddafi, the now dead former ruler of Libya who was a designated enemy of the West. Mr Gaddafi is reported to have presided over significant human rights abuses and supported terrorism in various parts of the world during his multi-decade reign.

There are numerous website references to the Flowers/Gadaffi connection. 

The Grand Bahama Golf Association, for example, has a bio of Craig Flowers that states:  “Craig came back home to become a Captain with Bahamasair. He left Bahamasair to travel to Libya to become the Chief Pilot and Operations Manager of Libya Arab Airlines. He also looked after the private travel arrangements for Muammar Gaddafi. Craig decided to return home after spending fourteen years in Libya to take over his family business and make various investments in the Bahamas.”

Bahamian media outlet Tribune242 yesterday confirmed that Mr Flowers has in the past talked about arranging the personal transportation of the despot during his rule.