Jeff Greene's yacht accused of devastating coral reef
On a Tuesday morning five years ago, Summerwind, a three-story, 145-foot luxury yacht, maneuvered above the celebrated barrier reef that lines the coast of Belize. There it dropped anchor — and plunged into controversy over severe damage to a coral reef system officially recognized by the United Nations as one of the world's most magnificent and irreplaceable treasures.
"The guys from the area told me they were beside the boat before it dropped anchor, and they were yelling and waving their hands, shouting, "No! No, don't drop here,'' recounted Melanie McField, a marine scientist with the Smithsonian Institution who surveyed the Central American reef shortly soon after the incident. "It was bad. There was a lot of damage."
The owner of that yacht? Billionaire Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Greene.The real estate mogul from Palm Beach was not aboard the boat at the time. And, oddly, Greene today says the incident never happened, despite extensive publicity about it at the time (including statements from his representatives), eyewitness accounts, scientific surveys of the damage, and an extensive case file at the country's Department of Environment.
"Jeff Greene doesn't take a penny of special interest money, so career politicians are attacking him with ridiculous stories about something that didn't even happen five years ago on a boat he wasn't even on,'' said campaign spokesman Luis Vizcaino.
Asked how he could say it never happened when Greene's own employees at the time acknowledged a problem on the reef with Summerwind, Vizcaino declined further comment: "That's our position. That's our quote."