RSP threaten legal action

BBC South East Today yesterday (11th April 2017) revealed that RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd is threatening Thanet District Council leader Chris Wells with legal action, over potentially libellous comments he made regarding the location of one of their key investors.

A transcript of the report is below.

Rob Smith (Anchor):

Lawyers acting for RiverOak, the company that’s hoping to re-open Manston Airport in East Kent are threatening legal action against the leader of Thanet District Council, Chris Wells.

Juliette Parkin (Anchor):

It follows an email he sent to fellow councillors, claiming that Belize, where one of RiverOak’s key investors is based, is a major money-laundering country, linked to the illegal drugs trade and human trafficking.  Peter Whittlesea has our exclusive story.

Peter Whittlesea (narrating):

It may have closed, but the company RiverOak that plans to reopen Manston Airport is threatening to sue the leader of Thanet District Council following comments he made regarding the company’s financial interests in Central America.  In an email to a local resident and copied to thirty five members of Thanet Council, Chris Wells wrote: “Belize is one of fourteen Caribbean nations named by the US as a ‘major money-laundering country'”, adding, “whose currency transactions involve proceeds from international narcotics trafficking, and Belize is a shipment point for marijuana and cocaine, human trafficking is also a concern.”

Save the airport campaigners say they’re shocked a reputable company, trying to create employment in Thanet, has been written about in this way.

Nicholas Reed (Manston Airport campaigner):

The allegations are something about RiverOak’s, got something to do with some obscure country in South America which is a most extraordinary implication to make about a perfectly respectable organisation which has been trying very hard for several years to get a fair hearing.

Peter Whittlesea (narrating):

RiverOak’s legal team have written to Chris Wells demanding “an unqualified withdrawal of the allegations, and an apology.  Confirmation that you will recuse yourself from the involvement of any decision of Thanet District Council relating to the Manston Airport site.  And payment of a significant sum in damages for the damage caused to RiverOak’s reputation”.

Chris Wells (UKIP Leader, Thanet District Council):

I’m not sure that’s even a relevant statement for anybody to make, so no, no comment at all.

Peter Whittlesea (narrating):

That was Chris Wells’ response today, but when elected as UKIP’s first council leader, he promised to keep Thanet District Council out of the headlines.

Chris Wells (in 2015):

We’ll see whether or not by adopting a very different approach, a very sort of more calm approach in doing things, that we can actually find that Thanet Council becomes less the object of people’s attention, and more the object of admiration because they simply get on with getting the job done.

Peter Whittlesea (narrating):

But critics say when it comes to Manston Airport, that the council has failed to get the job done.

Juliette Parkin (Anchor):

Ok, well er, we can cross live to Peter Whittlesea who’s in Manston for us now.  So Peter, what more have RiverOak had to say today?

Peter Whittlesea (Reporter):

Well RiverOak said they gave Chris Wells a deadline of 5pm this evening to meet their demands or he’d face legal action.  They said that he hasn’t tonight correct his libellous allegations, and, but, he has asked for extra time.  Now the interesting this is what happens next.  If Chris Wells does not defend this, then what his political opponents are saying, he’ll become a lame duck council leader because he won’t be able to make crucial decisions when it comes to Manston Airport.  But if he does defend it, I understand these are claims against him personally, not the council, so the big question is, does he have enough cash to fight a legal, er, er, legal battle against a big company?  Because we all know that legal battles can be expensive.

Juliette Parkin (Anchor):

Okay Peter, thanks very much.

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