FREE: Even As PNP Touts Opposition Leader's 'Consistent' Certification by Jamaica's Integrity Commission, Doubts Arise As To Whether Mark Golding Declared House In 2021 And Before.
He Refuses To Say Definitively.
This story was first made available in full to paid subscribers on October 3. It’s been updated to reflect the release by the Integrity Commission of the summary of Mark Golding’s 2022 statutory declaration. Feel free to share the story. It’s free! And remember to become a paid subscriber so you can be first to receive all our investigations in full once they’re released.
Mark Golding lives on Farringdon Drive in St. Andrew.
On government documents, he uses that address.
But when it comes to the issue of whether he declared this upscale property on his Integrity Commission filings, Jamaica’s Opposition Leader and President of the People’s National Party (PNP) wrote to 18º North, “It is not my house.”
Instead, an entity in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands of which he and his wife are the only directors, Tajebe Limited, owns this property, in a neighborhood where single-family homes have listed recently at close to US$1 million (J$155 million).
In response to a line of questions in August about his offshore companies that presumed that the Farringdon Drive house was declared, Mr. Golding unexpectedly corrected that presumption, writing, “The real estate referred to in the published summary of my 2021 Integrity Commission filing is other property either owned by my wife and I jointly or by me individually.”
This statement raises questions about whether the house Mr. Golding lives in was ever declared to the Integrity Commission, and whether it was even required to be declared? It also begs the question, whether the Commission’s form, as designed, is effective in capturing all the assets of public officials?
Background on Tajebe Limited
Property records show that the house at Farringdon Drive was transferred from a Christopher Mark Harris to Tajebe Limited on October 31, 2001, just a few weeks after the entity was incorporated in the BVI. The purchase price for the property was J$10 million (US$217,486) with Mr. Golding and his wife, Sandra, signing, respectively, as Director and Director/Secretary of Tajebe.
Mr. Golding explained that Tajebe was set up “for estate planning purposes,” and the choice of incorporation outside Jamaica for this purpose “was commonplace among the private sector at the time.”
Before entering public life as a senator in 2007, Mr. Golding was a corporate lawyer who helped found the investment house, Dehring, Bunting & Golding Ltd. (DB&G). When DB&G was sold to Scotia Group over a period of time, beginning in 2006, he and an entity connected to him grossed at least J$588 million, or around US$8.9 million back then, according to a 18º North calculation shared with Mr. Golding before publication that he didn’t dispute. He and his associates later formed another investment company, now known as Proven Group, which remains active today.
Mr. Golding wrote on August 24 that he and his wife remain the “sole directors of Tajebe,” and that in mid 2021, “after our children became adults, we transferred 100% ownership of the company to our children. My wife and I are not shareholders in the company.” But, in a possible indication as to who has control over Tajebe, he wrote, “We may add our children as directors when they achieve certain personal development milestones.” Attempts to reach Mrs. Golding for comment were unsuccessful.
Did Mr. Golding Declare The Farringdon Drive House?
Asked whether he had declared the Farringdon Drive house to the Integrity Commission before transferring ownership of Tajebe to his children in mid 2021 and even for that year, he said, “I have duly complied with my obligations to the Integrity Commission (IC). The IC routinely requests information on any issue which is not clear to them, and I have always provided the information that they have requested of me.”
Pressed again as to whether the Farringdon Drive house was declared since he did have a beneficial interest in Tajebe for most of the years since 2007, when he had a duty to declare his assets and since Tajebe owned the Farringdon Drive house at the time, (and still does), he answered, “That is not correct. The house is an asset of the company. I was not a beneficial owner of the house. I was a beneficial owner of shares in the company. To treat it otherwise would be double-counting, inaccurate and misleading.” Asked if that reference to “double-counting” meant that prior to mid 2021 he did report the assets of Tajebe to the Commission, including the Farringdon Drive house, he didn’t respond.
Whether Mr. Golding declared the house at Farringdon Drive has become important, as just a few weeks ago, he pushed for the resignation of House Speaker Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert, who was referred for prosecution by the Integrity Commission for failing to declare for several years her Mercedes-Benz worth J$6 million (US$38,710). Mrs. Dalrymple-Philibert subsequently resigned, maintaining that the omission of the vehicle in her declaration was a “genuine oversight” and something that could have happened to any member of parliament.
Given that Mr. Golding demanded the House Speaker’s resignation, 18º North asked him again whether he declared the house at Farringdon Drive. After more email exchanges, he finally responded on September 26, 2023, *“Ever since I first became a parliamentarian in 2007, the Integrity Commission has been aware that Farringdon Drive is the address where I reside, as my declarations have always stated that. The Integrity Commission has also always been aware from my declarations that Farringdon Drive is not included in the real estate owned by my wife and I.” Asked if that means he declared the house under another asset category, neither he nor the Commission would answer that question. (Even though all parliamentarians have a reporting requirement to the Commission, the 2021 declaration summary is the only year so far that has been made public for Mr. Golding since he only became Opposition Leader in late 2020 and, by law, only the summaries of the Prime Minister’s and Opposition Leader’s declarations are made public.)
The Assets Declared From The Summary of Mr. Golding’s 2021 Statutory Declaration
**After adding all the various asset categories across currencies contained in the published summary of Mr. Golding’s 2021 statutory declarations, the Leader of the Opposition appears to have reported total net assets and income of around US$2.8 million, at most, even while earning the equivalent of around US$736,000 in income for that year alone. (He said it’s because some assets are stated at their original cost and not their market value, in accordance with the statutory form.)
Despite living in a house where single-family homes along the same stretch have recently listed at close to US$1 million (J$155 million) – the real estate values reported were only J$45 million (US$299,461) and US$140,000 (J$21 million), respectively, which, if summed together, would be US$439,461 or J$66 million. He reported no real estate mortgages and only around US$13,600 (J$2 million) in other liabilities.
Mr. Golding revealed that among the real estate declared was his and his wife’s first matrimonial home at Garden Boulevard in St. Andrew. That house was subsequently sold for J$56 million (US$366,972) in June 2022.
Other properties found listed in his and, or his wife’s name include a lot in the parish of Portland in Jamaica bought in 2015 for US$25,000. There is also a two-bedroom apartment in Pembroke Pines in Broward County, Florida that had a market value of US$146,630 in 2021, according to the Broward County Property Appraiser’s website. Asked whether those two properties were included in his declaration, Mr. Golding wrote, “I have declared all my assets.”
What’s Required By The Integrity Commission To Be Filed
The Integrity Commission’s form doesn’t require disclosure of assets of adult children. A child is defined as younger than 18 years old, and Mr. Golding revealed to 18º North that his children are all over 25.
Further, when it comes to Section 4 titled “Immovable Property”, like a house, land or farm buildings, the statutory declaration form only asks for assets “held by” declarant, spouse and children. It doesn’t specify declaration of assets of companies controlled or owned by these individuals.
Section 3 on bonds, shares or any other such property seems broader, requiring declaration where “the right of disposition resides” in the declarant, spouse and children, and Mr. Golding had stated that prior to mid 2021 he was a beneficial owner of shares in the company that owned the Farringdon Drive house.
On Nov. 1, 2022, in response to several questions from 18º North about whether the form really compels declaration of assets or income generated by or in the name of offshore entities backed by the declarant, the Integrity Commission’s Director of the Information and Complaints Division Craig Beresford, responded in an email that, “the Statutory Declaration Form is sufficiently wide enough to capture all assets, liabilities and income for a Declarant, Spouse and Children within the context of the Integrity Commission Act.”
In various iterations of the question, two legal minds recently consulted by 18º North also said they believed the statutory declaration form, as is, requires a declarant to disclose assets owned by a company if the declarant or the declarant’s family owns and controls that company.
As to whether the Commission knew that the Farringdon Drive house wasn’t declared among Mr. Golding’s real estate assets, Mr. Beresford wrote on Sept. 26, 2023, “Thanks for your email. I will revert to you as soon as possible.” Then after 18º North followed up on Sept. 28, he wrote “no comment,” and reiterated the longstanding position that the Act, “prohibits the Commission from disclosing any information on matters before it, including statutory declarations.”
Then on Oct. 2, the People’s National Party’s General Secretary, Dr. Dayton Campbell, put out a press release announcing that Mr. Golding had received word from the Commission that his 2022 statutory declaration had been certified. The release stated, “Mr. Golding's declarations have passed the Integrity Commission's rigorous standards with each annual filing, in keeping with his commitment to ethical leadership.” The Integrity Commission has since released a summary of his 2022 filing, merely certifying that the declaration “has been examined.” It further outlined, “Based on the examination, which does not constitute an audit, it appears that the declaration has been duly completed in accordance with the provisions of the Act.”
Is the Declaration Form Deficient?
Opposition Senator Peter Bunting, a business partner of Mr. Golding, has flagged the need for tighter reporting requirements to include beneficial interest.
“In looking at the statutory reporting under the Integrity Commission Act, if you look at the standards form you will see deficiencies, such as it doesn't deal with trusts where families might be the beneficiaries,” Mr. Bunting said on the senate floor in January 2022, as first reported by the Jamaica Observer.
But Mr. Golding, who describes himself as the architect of the Integrity Commission Act for having spearheaded the crafting of the legislation when he was Justice Minister, told 18º North that trusts are already covered by item 10 of the form, which reads, "Other property owned by declarant, spouse and children, being held by a person other than owner, whether in trust or otherwise."
Asked whether the "or otherwise" part of item 10 is the Commission's way of capturing assets of the declarant being held in the name of a company whose beneficial owner is the declarant or the declarant's family, he responded that “Item 10 deals with legal arrangements where someone else holds assets on behalf of the declarant, of which a trust is one example.”
He also implied that Item 3 didn’t apply, stating that it “deals with shares and other securities.” He continued, “A shareholder in a company is not the owner of the company’s assets or liabilities. A shareholder has an ownership interest in the shareholders’ equity of the company, which is the value of the company’s assets less the value of its liabilities. That is a well-established legal principle,” he wrote.
Despite his legal interpretation of what’s required, 18º North asked Mr. Golding whether he believed that he has a duty, as the Leader of the Opposition, to declare to the Integrity Commission everything he owns, including assets in the name of a company that he controls, but he didn’t respond to that question. Neither did he respond when asked whether he ever asked the Integrity Commission for guidance as to whether to declare the assets of Tajebe or if he relied only on his legal interpretation of the declaration form.
In the series of email exchanges, the Opposition Leader did outline that, “the current form was largely carried over from the previous Act.”
But, he said, “I would be in favour of a requirement that, where the declarant is the ultimate beneficial ownership of shares in a company, that should be declared, and that financial statements should be provided to the Commission for non-listed companies in which the declarant has a substantial shareholding.”
Asked why he didn’t use the opportunity when crafting the Integrity Commission Act some years ago to amend the form to achieve more transparency since he would have been aware of any deficiencies in the form since 2007 when he became a parliamentarian and would have had a duty to declare his assets, he didn't respond to that question.
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This version has been updated to reflect the mention of the release by the Integrity Commission of Mr. Golding’s summary of his 2022 statutory declaration.
Historical exchange rates used are the averages for the applicable years as published by the Bank of Jamaica. So, if assets were reported in 2021 then the exchange rate for 2021 would have been used. If an asset was from 2001, then the exchange rate for that year would have been used at the time of being mentioned in the piece.
*The references to the house number in Mr. Golding’s quote have purposely been deleted by 18º North.
**The Integrity Commission wouldn’t confirm whether the total net assets of Mr. Golding was a sum of all the asset categories across currencies. When asked, Mr. Golding says that what the Integrity Commission publishes is a summary of his statutory declaration. “It is not (and is not intended to be) a net worth calculation.”
While the Integrity Commission Act defines a child as under the age of 18, at the time when the 2021 summary of Mr. Golding’s financials was released, the Commission’s instructions to declarants of how to complete the statutory declaration form did have a section on page 5 that read, “PARTICULARS OF DECLARANT’S CHILDREN The declarant should list the names, dates of birth and addresses of all his/her children, even where they are not currently living with the declarant and where the child is over the age of eighteen years." For some declarants, this could have made it seem like assets of a child over 18 should be declared, or at least, made it unclear. But 18º North asked Mr. Beresford in October 2022 about that section, and he said it was an error, which would have been amended. The section now reads, “PARTICULARS OF DECLARANT’S CHILDREN The declarant should list the names, dates of birth and addresses of his/her children.”