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Letter: Dominica: Copley's mission of distortion and misinformation exposed
Published on February 16, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

Since the appearance of Kenneth Rijock and Gregory R Copley of Defense & Foreign Affairs, Dominica has become the target of a coordinated campaign of distortion and misinformation. Enough has been said of Rijock, it’s the role by Gregory R Copley, which intrigues me.

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On 9th February 2017, I wrote Mr Copley the following:

...I have read your Special Analysis “Dominica Passport Scandal Reveals Iranian Sanctions Busting and PRC Intelligence Focus on the ‘Third US Border’ in the Caribbean” and I think you have been misled by information provided by persons in or connected to opposition forces in Dominica. Time does not permit a full response at this time, and in due course I will write to you about the allegations of alleging spying ties to China and concerning the sales of diplomatic passports, which the Prime Ministerial has repeatedly denied. I will point out though that the first to make this allegation was Gabriel Christian.

What I wish to do now I wish to point this out by referring to four (4) of the main parts of your Analysis which are inaccurate and show, at least to me, you were misled…

First, China was not subject to the Iranian oil embargo imposed by the United States during the years alleged first in Dominica by Thomson Fontaine and then by you… China and 10 or 11 other counties were exempted from that oil embargo by Secretary Clinton in 2012. [See for example (i) Wall Street Journal; (ii) Financial Times; and (iii) International Business Times].

Second, no ship or vessel flying the Dominica flag has ever been registered or 'administered in Greece since at least 2000. There is a simple explanation. In 1999 the UWP government granted a 20-year exclusive contract to an American. This agreement requires that all ships flying the Dominican flag must be registered and administered in the United States of America. It therefore prohibits the registration or administration of ships with Dominica’s flag anywhere other than in the United States

Third, you wrote:

“Significantly, the Dominican GDP had declined after 2014, and much of the traditional agricultural export sector no longer functioned as it had done in earlier years. The Skerrit government had ignored agricultural development, the dominant source of Dominican employment and exports, and relied instead on funds from the ‘economic citizenship’.”

The real reason why the GDP was nearly wiped out 'after 2014' was because of TS Erika. The post TS Erika assessment by the government and World Bank indicated that in one (1) night Dominica lost over 90% of its GDP. However as the prime minister disclosed in the Parliament, the government was able to use revenues from the CBI program to expedite the recovery of our destroyed country. As a result, the net lost in the following financial year was 3 to 5% of GDP.

Fourth, you wrote

“The public focus of the scandal -- but not the breadth of the strategic activity -- was the ‘Dominica Economic Citizenship Program’, which actually began in 1993, and by which, under Dominican law, foreign citizens could acquire Dominican citizenship for $100,000. The volume of sales of these ‘citizenships’ is now, however, undocumented and no substantive numbers have been revealed, but was of sufficient concern that it could ensure that the ruling party could call on sufficient numbers of ‘new citizens’ at any time to skew political voting. The sale of diplomatic passports involved substantially larger payments, and most of the funds were diverted away from the government’s coffers.”

This allegation has been part of the opposition play book for years, and is false because, among others, 1. For the last 10 years or more revenues collected are line itemed and disclosed in the Estimates of Revenues and Expenditure of the Government; and The names of all persons granted citizens are published in the Official Gazette…

Mr Copley responded:

Dear Mr Astaphan:

Many thanks for your detailed email and attachments this morning. You raise significant points and I have passed these through to our analysis group so that they can be included in any follow-up reports. Significantly, the initial report which you saw was prepared solely for government consumption but was apparently leaked to the consumer media.
(My emphasis)

Without getting into all of the details of your message, let me state that it is clear that the governments of both Iran and the People's Republic of China are absolutely not bound by US laws or obliged to follow the application of sanctions regimes to which they did not agree. They, like the Commonwealth of Dominica, have sovereign rights and their governments' only obligation is to their citizens and to the international agreements to which they are signatory…

We will certainly include reference to the public material you provided in the ongoing analysis of the situation.

We are grateful that you provided this important additional information.

Sincerely,

Gregory Copley,
President, The International Strategic Studies Association

Mr Copley’s response is hugely important. It contains implicit admissions that Copley had no clue of the information I provided, which he described as ‘significant’. Mr Copley also admitted the report was leaked but he does not say who he gave the document to, or who leaked it. Significantly, it was leaked to the public in Dominica by someone in the anti Skerrit Dominican cabal. Therefore, if this leakage did happen, as Copley suggested, then it provides evidence of some collaboration, and a calculated campaign to spread fake news and misinformation. Nevertheless, his willingness to accept ‘significant information’ from me was not to last.

Mr Copley and I had an exchange of emails on a variety of issues in which I challenged what Mr Copley was saying to me (see the emails in full). But he had had enough of real facts. On 10th February Mr Copley emailed me:

Mr Astaphan:

And there is much that I do know. I've been advising governments on strategic intelligence for 50 years. It seems you feel you have it all under control, so perhaps the need for our communication has come to an end.

Good luck.
Gregory Copley

In short, Copley told me get lost simply because I challenged him on the facts. I therefore replied, “I am very sorry you feel this way. I was merely sharing information. But if that's the way you feel, many thanks for your time.” Prior to Mr Copley’s abrupt dispatch of me on 10th February, I had promised him information on the alleged sales of diplomatic passports on the weekend, i.e. 11th or 12th February 2017 (“I will get back to you on the issue of diplomatic passports and some of the other allegations in your Analysis on the weekend.”) However, I did not do as because Copley had slammed the door shut. Consequently, I was shocked to hear Mr Copley on John Bachelor’s radio show referring to my emails and saying I had not provided any information on, among others, Lap Seng. I was stunned. Consequently, I emailed him on 12th February 2017:

Dear Mr Copley,

I was sent a copy of audio of a show you did recently in which you referred to our exchange of emails. However, I note you may not have indicated that you cut off our communication before I addressed the issue of the diplomatic passports especially in relation to Lap Seng. I think fairness requires that the host of the radio show should invite me or another representative of the prime minister to respond on his behalf. In any event, I was also surprised to hear your allegations about the prime minister's alleged lifestyle and wealthy. I will however take the liberty to inform you of the following facts:

1. In relation to Monfared... (see the emails) .

2. As I indicated in my first email to you, it is not correct to suggest that Dominican flagged ships were involved in any sanction busting… (See the emails)

3. The Leader of, and the United Workers Party, who you describe as pro USA (news to me), have alleged that Lap Seng was promised a diplomatic passport in exchange for an investment in Dominica. They relied on the bail hearing transcripts in the US (attachment 1). There is no reference to diplomatic passports in the transcripts. Lap Seng became a citizen of Dominica in the late 1980s /early 1990s when Skerrit was still in High School. This so called investment was reported in the local media in Dominica in 2002. (See attachments 2 and 3). At this time PM Skerrit was not the Prime Minister of Dominica. In 2009 the Minister of Foreign Affairs disclosed to the Parliament that Lap Seng, also Ng, assisted in the move from Taiwan to the PROC. (see attachment 4). This ended by 2012. Therefore, at the time of Lap Seng's arrest in 2015, he had no official or personal connection with the Prime Minister or Government. However, and despite your criticism of Lap Seng, the bail hearing transcripts show that he was allowed to fly freely in and out of the USA several times, and allowed to invest and buy significant residential properties in New York and elsewhere in the USA. Lap Seng was allowed on bail in his own residence! (See the transcripts).

4. I am not sure where you got the information from that the Prime Minister has millions stashed away. The opposition party has been making this allegation for years. They have also alleged he owns an apartment in the USA. To date not a shred of evidence, despite the Prime Minister's multiple denials, have even been produced. You also spoke of the Prime Minister's lifestyle. What lifestyle were you referring to? These are extraordinary allegations which have been made against the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has denied these allegations ad nauseam…

I have to date had no response from Gregory R Copley. I wonder why? But even if Copley does reply, his failure to give a full and accurate picture to John Bachelor of our email exchanges, and fact he told me to get lost in the circumstances in which he did, tells me a lot about him and very likely his apparent motives in speaking ill of Dominica.

Anthony W Astaphan, SC
 
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Comments:

Readwell:

Fabricating Facts from Half-Truths

This comment is written to correct some of the misinformation being perpetuated in the above letter.

China was not exempt from the sanctions. They were restricted. That is not the same thing. India, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Taiwan and some countries in the EU had already cut back on their oil consumption before the sanctions were instituted. So they were to remain at those levels. However, China never followed those rules. In some months they exceeded the amount of oil they bought from Iran by 100%. In fact they were buying more oil than before the sanctions. China was in the process of stockpiling oil. Iran increased the sale of oil to China during the sanctions period. That is a known fact.

Nevertheless, there is a big unanswered question. Did Dominica help bust sanctions placed on Iran regarding their sale of oil? Certain facts seem to put the Skerrit government right in the middle of it. Sanctions on Iran were expanded on January 2, 2013 by President Obama who signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act 2013. This Act restricted the shipping sector and ports. It also placed specific obligations on Insurance Underwriters. Iran’s oil tanker could not get their Insurance renewed. The Insurance restriction was used as a mechanism to curtail oil shipment and violation of sanctions by Iran. The act not only applied to US persons or entities, but to “any person” including foreign persons / entities engaging in activities benefiting those industries. In fact the Act specifically targeted the maritime industry.

To circumvent this new sanction, Iran began reflagging its own ships in order to deceive purchasers as to the origin of the oil. As a result, they began using small countries like Tuvalu to flag their tankers. The US was alerted about Tuvalu and warned them to stop reflagging Iranian oil tankers. The administration in Tuvalu was very disturbed because they claimed that 'substantial fees' were derived from registering ships. Hence, by August 2013, about 31 Iranian oil tankers were put out of commission as a direct consequence of the US National Defense Authorization Act 2013. Iran was in a bind. How were they going to move all the oil that was stored in Turkey? Was it at that time that Mr. Monfared (an Iranian oil agent) became a Dominican Diplomat to rescue his country (Iran) and make billions of dollars in the process? Was the fake investment business 'My Dominica Trade House' established to mask or front Iranian sanction-busting activities? It would not have been a stretch to flag some private oil tankers through Dominica. For the most part, that action would not raise a red flag because Dominica received oil from Venezuela How convenient. How much did Mr. Monfared pay to the Dominicans and Greeks that facilitated the 'Dominica Flag of Convenience'?
At present, there are 10 oil tankers stationed in the Pacific flagged by Dominica. Mr. Astaphan (mouthpiece and chronic apologist for Roosevelt Skerrit and Dominica Labor Party Regime) was quite emphatic about the fact that Dominica could only register ships in the US. But what he failed to mention is that Dominica runs a Marine Regional Office in Greece where ship owners can go the website and apply for registration. The oil tankers may be registered in Washington but all the applications were made and approved through the Greek office ( http://dominica-registry-greece.com/). Dominica makes it extremely easy to register your vessel. According to the site and, I quote “We can tailor the registration process specific to each client’s needs” wink, wink. By the way how much fees does Dominica get from registering those tankers? Are those 'handsome' monies in the treasury or in somebody’s pockets?.

In case anyone wants see Dominica’s flagged oil tankers they can go to: www.shipspotting.com or maritime-connector.com and enter the names of these oil tankers in the search box. You will see whose flag comes up. Here are the names of the tankers: Ocean Concord, Ocean Emerald, Ocean Gurnard, Ocean Kite, Ocean Manta, Ocean Marlin, Ocean Osprey, Ocean Princess, Ocean Swift, and Ocean Seal.

The Skerrit-led Labor Party government has no idea of the implication for putting Dominica's flag on all those old oil tankers. If there’s an oil spill, who will pick up the bill?

Finally, I have one question. Who are real the owners of those tankers? Could it be that some of the owners are sitting in Dominica? Probably a court case will unmask the “clandestine” owners. We shall see.

Readwell



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