By G.A. Dwyer Astaphan
The long list of characters carrying St Kitts and Nevis passports through the economic citizenship program keeps getting longer.
First, we had Rustem Tursunbayev, who is wanted for embezzlement in Kazakhstan. Then Alizera Moghadam, the Iranian, entering Canada with an SKN diplomatic passport, and claiming untruthfully that he was there on our behalf to meet with officials, including the Canadian prime minister.
Dwyer Astaphan is a lawyer and former St Kitts-Nevis minister of national security and tourism
It’s alleged that he told Canadian immigration officials that he had paid US$1 million to get his diplomatic passport. In response to this allegation, Denzil Douglas claimed in Parliament a few months ago that an investigation done by himself revealed that no member of Cabinet was involved. Did Douglas investigate himself? Who else was investigated? How extensive and reliable could his investigation have been?
Without casting aspersions on anyone, I don’t believe that any objective and fair observer would be satisfied with an investigation into this matter by a person who, among other things, is in charge of the economic citizenship program, who was the one to have requested Cabinet’s approval for Moghadam to get a diplomatic passport, who signs all citizenship certificates, whose approval is required before diplomatic passports can be issued, and who runs the Cabinet.
Then we had Arthur Porter, also a holder of an SKN diplomatic passport, who is wanted in Canada on a $22 million embezzlement charge; Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, the second vice president of Equatorial Guinea, who is wanted in France on multimillion-dollar money-laundering charges; and Charles Edward Krasny Ergen, another SKN passport holder (we’re told, an official one), who allegedly faces a child abduction charge in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, don’t forget the very charming and generous Godswill Obot Akpabio, the governor of Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria, who, we’re told, also carries an SKN diplomatic passport.
And just days ago, we learned about Oluwaseun Ogunbambo, who is facing trial in Nigeria next month for obtaining money by false pretences, forgery, using false documents and conspiring to fraudulently obtain money from the Nigerian government. He too carries an SKN passport. We don’t know whether it’s a regular, official or diplomatic passport.
The judge in Nigeria refused him bail in October 2012, because of Ogunbambo’s criminal past and his “crooked history of illicitly obtaining international passports”, and with different identities. However, it appears that he may have escaped custody, because on February 14, 2014, the following statement was released by the Nigerian authorities:
“The public is hereby notified that Oluwaseun Ogunbambo is wanted in connection with a case of forgery, use of false documents and fraudulently obtaining about US$6 million under the Petroleum Support Fund Scheme.”
If you see a strange man, in his mid-40s, about 6’ 2” tall, medium build, probably in fancy clothes and sunglasses, anywhere in SKN, shout “Ogunbambo!” It might be him.
But there’s more. Forbes Magazine on line is reporting that Pourya Nayebi, an Iranian man holding an SKN passport, is at the centre of a United States Treasury Department’s investigation into companies in Switzerland and elsewhere for evading US sanctions against Iran.
He and two other Iranian men, Houshang Hosseinpour and Hushang Farsoudeh are named in the article. Allegedly, they too hold SKN passports. And the three are said to control at least eight companies, located in different countries.
One such company is a bank in Georgia which they used to facilitate massive transactions for blacklisted Iranian banks. Their activities raised concern in the US and Europe about potential links with the Iranian government, and God knows what else!
How did these characters get their hands on SKN passports, worse yet, diplomatic passports in the first place? Which of them still hold our passports? If any, how come? Can they be wielding so much power that nobody can touch them?
Who’s really running SKN? Who has the real power here? Are our leaders nothing more than gophers for these people? Aren’t those days done? Or is it that regardless of the time in history, the game remains the same?
Nayebi’s SKN passport gets him visa-free access into the European Union countries, something which his Iranian passport can’t do. He and people like him are part of a network, the ultimate leadership of which comes from that country’s Supreme Leader through two entities, known as EIKO and SETAD, which oversee a network of about 40, seemingly private companies, and countless subsidiaries and associate entities, spread all over the world.
SETAD concerns itself mostly with land, and it exercises significant control and influence over land transactions in Iran, an arrangement which it tries to duplicate in other countries, wherever possible. And it exploits every opportunity and vulnerability that exists in the process, in order to achieve its goal.
The accounts of EIKO and SETAD are not available under law to the Iranian Parliament or the Iranian people. The Supreme Leader decides what is revealed, and what is not.
The EIKO-SETAD network is powerful, operating in the hundreds of billions of dollars, and it is global in reach. Its mission is to promote the interests of the Iranian Government and its leaders, and to use its business connections and transactions to evade the international restrictions.
The companies in the network are mostly ‘fronts’. Some of these companies are TEACO, Mellat Insurance, Rey Investment Co., Tadbir Economic Development Group, Pardis Investment Co., Amin Investment Bank, MCS International, One Vision Investments, and many, many others.
Nayebi’s companies are regarded by the US Treasury Department as part of this EIKO-SETAD network.
The Tadbir Group handles SETAD’s financial investments.
It’s alleged that at least one company in the network is involved in a development project in our Federation, and that massive land purchases are being considered by interests relating to EIKO-SETAD.
Is this in any way tied to the fact that SIDF money has not been used to pay off, or even pay down, the government’s debt to the National Bank? Is it part of a plan for the EIKO-SETAD network, and perhaps other networks centered in other countries, to take control here by moving in on the nearly 8-square miles or 12% of the land mass of St Kitts that has been locked down under mortgage to the National Bank since 2006? Does that, and acquisitions and proposals for elsewhere on the island, give an indication that we’re being re-colonized?
Was there a plan, hatched long ago, to deprive Kittitians and Nevisians of their own land, as Douglas took the Ministry of Lands for himself in 2004, hurried out of sugar in 2005, formed the SIDF in 2006, and quickly made a few people multimillionaires?
And is it now the plan to finish the job, with the formation of this Special Land Sales Agency which has on its board people who are actually in the business of processing economic citizenship applications and selling land, and who are also members of the Douglas cabal, people who may be conflicted?
Is the sellout now to be completed, the way paved for the EIKOs and SETADs of this world, as all sorts of characters sport our passports, even our diplomatic passports, and as some folks pocket as much quick lucre as they can?
Who’s really running SKN? And for whom?