Published On: Fri, Dec 20th, 2013

Young entrepreneurs claim their business plan was stolen — routes launched by WINAIR are part of stolen plan

gregoryhodgePHILLIPSBURG - Two young St. Martin entrepreneurs namely Gregory Hodge and Jhony Henson are extremely upset and now seeking legal action and justice because they believe their business plan for EASTCAIR was stolen by three elected officials. Hodge and Henson contacted SMN News on Monday after we published the new routes WINAIR launched on Sunday claiming that the routes WINAIR launched came from their business plan that they gave to two parliamentarians they met in January 2013. Hodge provided SMN News with their business plan including the scheduled routes they had in the business plan. The schedule Hodge provided to SMN News has exactly the same routes (including time of day) that WINAIR released last Sunday to SMN News.

Hodge said in 2012 they needed some information to complete their project and they contacted Princess Juliana International Airport (PJIAE) for some information and PJIAE management requested information from them prior to releasing any information to them. Both men said they met with management of PJIAE and they cooperated with them by providing the information they wanted.

The two men said that Territorial Councilor Jules Charville arranged a meeting for them with Members of Parliament Frans Richardson and MP Patrick Illidge. "When we met these two Members of Parliament we discussed our ideas and how we intended to do business even after St. Maarten was downgraded. During the meeting both MPs told us they did not know what to do to revive WINAIR and they also did not know if it was possible to do anything after the island was downgraded. They asked us for copies of our business plan and we gave it to them in good faith. While we also met someone from WINAIR we did not give them our business plan, we discussed the ideas we had and the initiatives we are taking to launch our business. We also paid for a business license in order to begin operations such as training of employees and to date we have not received that business license. We heard from other people that the Dutch side officials were planning to steal our business plan but we did not take the information serious because at the time we had no proof of what was told to us. We however, found it strange that since the meeting with the two Members of Parliament in January 2013 we were not able to meet with them again because the purpose for that meeting was for them to speed up the process for us to get the business license. We tried reaching MP Richardson and Illidge by phone and they never returned our call."

Hodge said prior to meeting with the two MPs, they held meetings with the management of Windward Islands Bank who were following them and had even committed to invest in purchasing the aircrafts they needed in order to have real collateral in case something should go wrong.
"Since that meeting with the two MPs we are not even able to open a bank account in the name of our company. Today we are seeking justice, we want the people of St. Maarten to know that the routes that WINAIR just launched are part of our business plan and most importantly the routes to Guadeloupe and partnering with Air Antilles are also part of our plan that was stolen."

Hodge, an aviation worker who was employed at the L'Esperance Airport, said he left his job in 2010 and started a three year study in order to put together a business plan to open a new airline which would have partnerships with Air Antilles and WINAIR. The idea the young St. Martiners had was to open a local airline which would focus on regional flights.

He said that a group of them invested over $350,000.00 to conduct the study and to put together the business plan that was stolen from them. "We worked with experts from Europe and USA."

Both Hodge and Henson said they will do everything legally possible to obtain justice and to ensure that they get what is due to them.

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