However, David is maintaining that the plants he had on his plane were hemp and were related to his plans for a new legal cannabis business in St Kitts and other parts of the region.
He and Ergen had announced last month that they had formed a consortium which specializes in cannabidiol (CBD) medicines and they hoped to develop the legal cannabis market in Eastern Caribbean countries including St Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, and Antigua and Barbuda.
The charges were laid after an investigation into the discovery of cannabis on his private jet when he arrived at the Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw International Airport last Tuesday, along with American businessman Chase Ergen with whom he is in a cannabis business venture. Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers and his family had also been travelling with David and Ergen.
The 51-year-old billionaire was arrested by members of the Anti-Narcotics Unit at the airport when he tried to leave last Thursday, and he was subsequently charged. He was initially granted EC$30,000 (US$11,101) bail and ordered to surrender all travel documents and report to the police station daily.
When David appeared in court yesterday, the bail amount was increased to the EC$300,000 (US$111,010) but his travel documents were returned to him and he was free to leave the country. He must return for another court appearance on September 23.
Before boarding his jet yesterday, David issued a warning to Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris that he and his government would be slapped with a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit over the arrest.
In a press release on April 30 when the formation of the consortium was announced, it was stated that the first plane load of hemp seed for a designated parcel of land totaling 300 acres would arrive on Thursday, May 2.
David and Ergen said their plans included purchasing agricultural land and partnering with farmers to create a cooperative entity modelled after the ones in Switzerland. At that time they said the consortium had already had its first meetings with business and government leaders across the region and would be expanding its outreach this month.
They added that the consortium would create thousands of jobs and also tap into the rich cultural history and cannabis know-how of the strengthening Rastafarian movement in the region.
On Monday, at a press conference at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort, David said the plants and seeds had been declared to Customs and other relevant government agencies prior to his arrival, in accordance with local procedure, and he insisted that after exhaustive testing nothing illegal was found.
Suggesting that Prime Minister Harris was behind his arrest, as a result of meeting he had with him on Sunday at the Park Hyatt Hotel, David said he would be taking legal action.
“So let me tell you, Mr Harris, what’s gonna go down. There are three lawyers here from the UK and they’re gonna take you down, Sir; you don’t do that to me or to my friend.”
“What he’s done is illegal, it’s wrong and it’s unconscionable. I took on four of the biggest companies in the United States and I beat them after seven years of lawsuits, just out of principle, nothing else, because they called me a liar. Mr Harris here has a whole new thing coming at him,” David added.
A statement from David’s company, Swissx – a cannabis and CBD business based in Gstaad, Switzerland – said the lawsuits against Harris and the government would be filed in St Kitts this week.
“The Eastern Caribbean is in perfect position as cannabis shifts from being an illegal $400 billion business globally to a legal one worth ten times that. It will be the Silicon Valley of cannabis, the Wall Street, the Hollywood,” David had said. “Ultimately we are bringing cannabis back to its birthplace.”
Our intention is to work with the government, the courts, the banks, the business sector, and the farmers to develop a fair system that creates thousands of jobs on the island and uses Swissx's international distribution network to make St. Kitts-Nevis cannabis products among the most sought after in the world.
It is our intention to quickly see a surge in the nation's GDP that will benefit everyone. This is an economic development initiative for raising the quality of life in conjunction with local SKN Caribbean partners. Former PM Denzil Douglas is working closely with us.
Ergen had added: “St. Kitts-Nevis and its neighbours are ideally situated to produce the highest quality CBD in the world. We have no doubt we will be able to double their GDPs within a matter of years as the region takes its rightful place in a market that is literally changing people’s lives.”
We've have met with Prime Minister Harris to talk about coordinating support efforts before we leave next week for meetings in Dominica and other Caribbean island nations that have shown great interest in our cooperative partnership. Those talks have broken down and led to the arrests of David and Ergen. David and Ergen's legal team has arrived from the UK and will be filing lawsuits against PM Harris and the government this week.
David is an heir of the Leventis-David Group which holds the majority share in Coca-Cola Helenic, Europe’s largest bottling company. The Leventis family is worth more than $388 million, according to 2018’s The Sunday Times Rich List. The UK-based publication estimates David is independently worth more than $2.8 billion.
- Countries: St_Kitts_Nevis
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