Ex-TradeWinds boss wants crooked politician’s evidence

DONALD Watkins, former owner of cargo airline TradeWinds, is trying to question a corrupt former Detroit City council member for defending evidence in the ongoing lawsuit two pension boards brought against him.

The pension boards allege that Watkins and his financial advisor Donald Stukes convinced pension trustees to loan them US$30 million to buy TradeWinds, which subsequently went bust seven months later. About $27 million of the cash paid off TradeWinds’ debts, $1 million went to Stukes’ financial advisory company, ASI Advisors, leaving only $2 million to run the airline. TradeWinds was subsequently bought by Sky Lease One and renamed Sky Lease Cargo.

Now Watkins thinks that former councilwoman Monica Conyers and DeDan Milton, a former aide to ex-Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, have evidence that can help his defence. Both were pension trustees but equally both are currently serving 37 months in prison for bribery. Watkins claims the trustees tried to force him to fund their election campaigns as part of the deal to loan the money, for example, that Kilpatrick asked him for a $100,000 contribution to Kilpatrick’s election fund and that he allow National Association for the Advancement of Colored People officials to use his private jet for free.

Although Watkins has a past as a civil rights lawyer he is also well-known for pitching large-scale business ventures only to have them collapse. Forbes magazine dedicated an investigative article on him back in 2002 questioning his claims that he was a billionaire.

Stukes also has a chequered business record.

Watkins denies the claims: “The only blemish on my 36-year business career record is the TradeWinds dispute, which was precipitated by my refusal to participate in an unlawful pay-to-play scheme forced upon me by certain trustees of the Retirement Systems of the City of Detroit and their surrogates.

“I’m not the bad guy in this thing,” he added.

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