By Caribbean News Now contributor
BASILDON, England -- A British businessman accused of bribing the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in order to gain citizenship has vigorously denied the allegations.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves
According to the Basildon Reporter newspaper, Dave Ames, 60, rejected accusations he had offered Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves a “suitcase of money” in return for citizenship in SVG, where his firm Harlequin Property is developing a luxury resort.
Ames, who has in fact been granted St Vincent citizenship, has faced accusations in the Caribbean and at home about the firm, which has sold 6,000 vacation homes and villas since 2005, but has only built 300. This includes homes at Buccament Bay in SVG.
Harlequin Property has taken an estimated £300 million (US$453 million) in deposits and some investors are worried whether their homes will ever be built or if they will be able to get their money back, the newspaper reported.
The BBC sent reporters to the Caribbean and later accused Gonsalves of accepting a suitcase of money from Ames in order to receive his citizenship.
“This is an outrageous lie,” Ames said.
“Sam Commissiong, my solicitor in St Vincent, has attended each and every meeting I have had with the prime minister and will confirm the allegation is completely false,” he added.
Gonsalves has reportedly visited Buccament Bay to meet Ames on a number of occasions, and last summer pledged his support to the resort due to its importance to the local economy.
Gonsalves also defended Harlequin when opposition leader Arhnim Eustace raised questions about it paying staff on time last July.