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St Kitts & Nevis
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Commentary: Ken Rijock has me thinking
Published on February 8, 2017Email To Friend    Print Version

By G.A. Dwyer Astaphan

About a week ago, American Mr Kenneth Rijock informed the world that Dominica’s prime minister, Mr Roosevelt Skerrit, was under investigation by the United States Department of Justice for his role in the sale of a Dominican diplomatic passport to an Iranian gentleman named Alireza Zabahalat Monfared, who, Mr Rijock claims, was recently returned to Iran to face criminal prosecution for embezzling millions of dollars of state funds.

dwyer_astaphan7.jpg
Dwyer Astaphan is a lawyer and former St Kitts-Nevis minister of national security and tourism
Mr Rijock says that the US investigation into Prime Minister Skerrit relates to facilitating the delivery of a diplomatic passport to Mr Monfared who, according to Mr Rijock, is a known international sanctions violator.

Now before I go any further, let me state that I hold no brief for Prime Minister Skerrit, nor would he need, or even wish, me to. My interest in Mr Rijock’s story is that it refers to a Caribbean prime minister and to a citizenship by investment program, and that it can have bad consequences, not only for Dominica, but also for the rest of us.

Let me also say that while I robustly advocate against wrongdoing and corruption in public life, I’m not one to rush gleefully and carelessly to conclusions in matters which challenge a person’s integrity and character, such as this does. So if there’s the slightest chance that Mr Rijock is onto something here, then the chips will have to fall where they may. But if not, then that’s another matter. And some questions would have to be asked and answered.

The truth is that there are several defects in Mr Rijock’s complaint against the Dominican prime minister. Defects of logic and reason. Defects that ought not to arise in the thinking and arguments of a trained legal mind.

Again, I’m not purporting to speak in Mr Skerrit’s defence, but why would Mr Rijock publish speculative material which he must know is capable of causing severe harm to Dominica, and others?

Others, including us here in St Kitts and Nevis.

As recently as yesterday, Mr Rijock published a hyped up and accusatory article on his financial crimes blog entitled "When East Caribbean Nations Give Passports to Iranians, Global Security is Threatened".

In that piece he refers to “Dominica’s scandal”, meaning the Monfared matter, and to “St Kitts and Nevis’ latest passport black eye” meaning the identification by the US authorities of another Iranian, Kambiz Rostamian, holding a St Kitts and Nevis passport.

If the one is a “scandal” and the other a “black eye”, then how would Mr Rijock describe the seemingly endless cases of fraud in America’s EB-5 Green Card (leading to citizenship) program? So much fraud that some legislators are calling for an end to the program. But it’s still going on.

How many Iranians and Iranian threats have been involved in the US EB-5 program?

Of course, while I wish the US well, I can’t help but wonder why Mr Rijock and others of his kind seem not to have such a voracious appetite to ventilate on the shenanigans in the US and European programs as they do with regard to ours in the Caribbean.

The good Lord knows that most of us in these islands want efficiency, transparency and integrity to be the hallmarks of the conduct of our leaders and our governments. And we keep pressing for that, in our economic citizenship programs and everywhere else.

However, Mr Rijock, or anyone else, crying wolf in the absence of certainty can do us great harm. And crying wolf deliberately to do harm is infinitely worse.

Who is Ken Rijock?

He’s a lawyer who in the 1980s got deeply involved in laundering of money earned from drug dealing, prostitution, etc. And he published a book on his criminal activities entitled ‘The Laundry Man’.

He was reined in by the law in 1990, and because he cooperated with US federal authorities, he received a relatively mild two-year prison sentence, and was released in 1992.

I believe that he was suspended from practicing law for five years, but it seems that he never went back into it. Instead, since his release he has been delivering lectures and advising bankers, law enforcement groups, and others, giving them insights into the world on money laundering.

And he publishes his financial crimes blog.

He’s a busy fellow.

My reference to his criminal past is not intended in any way to impugn him.

I do so because, not only is it the truth but also because it’s relevant, if only to demonstrate that he may have had his epiphany when, in the late 1980s, he realized that the long arm of the law was closing in on him. Prison can have that effect on some people.

And we’re all sinners.

Having said that, my experiences in life and in government have made me just a bit of a skeptical of people from the metropolis who seem either unaware of the damage that they might be doing to countries such as ours, or they simply and callously deliberately set out to do such damage.

I sometimes wonder if they realize that their actions could actually draw more ‘bad eggs’ to the region, and ultimately could lead to instability and a possible geopolitical rearrangement that might not be in the best interests of the United States.

It’s bad enough for the people of our countries if a prime minister is put under suspicion, as Mr Rijock has done here with Mr Skerrit. But it could be even worse if the suspicion is groundless.

So we need to ask this question: Does Mr Rijock have a motive? If the answer is yes, then his statements about Mr Skerrit would lead us to ask these questions: Does he have ‘a horse in the race’ in Dominica? Has he ever been engaged in any way, whether or not for reward, to assist any political or other group in Dominica or elsewhere that is unsupportive of Prime Minister Skerrit? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then which is the group that engaged Mr. Rijock? Could it be a group which was once ‘friendly’ with Dominica, and, indeed, St Kitts, and which made a fortune out of those friendships, but is now on the warpath against these two tiny Caribbean sisters?

Are we in these islands seeing people from the metropolis who, once they don’t get their way with us, choose, frothing with utter contempt and disregard for our people, to torpedo our economies? Are we seeing the new type of mercenary from the metropolis, not the one who assassinates leaders and others literally, and engages in, and foments, war-like activities, but instead the mercenary who assassinates the names of people and the institutions of these tiny, vulnerable nations, and wreaks utter havoc economically and socially?

Is it possible that the people who paid the British group in the effort to unseat Mr Skerrit in Dominica’s 2009 elections may have also engaged Mr Rijock to try the same in the 2014 elections?

There are people who will believe that the answer to these questions is yes. If so, then that might reveal a motive behind what Mr Rijock is doing here. A motive driven by scorched earth partisanship and vindictiveness. A motive which, translated into words, can do incalculable harm to the people of a little nation.

Is there any truth in the report that a high-ranking official in one of these international citizenship-by-investment firms which operates in this part of the world has resigned because of his deep discomfort with certain practices in that firm?

I’m not accusing anyone of any wrongdoing. I’m just trying to get to the bottom of this.

Ken Rijock has me thinking.
 
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Comments:

Brian Connell:

Are you a beneficiary from the sale of passports too?

Do you know we have no accountability here in Dominica?

Do you know that this dirty politicians are living large whilst our country remain so badly underdeveloped?

Your so called eloquence does not impress the poor people of these countries especially in Dominica

JMWAVE:

Panama Dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega called US Drug Traffic and Human Rights accusations against him a big "Gringo hype". Mr.Dwyer Astaphan you have a right to be in denial or even delusion. We understand how the Caribbean "so called" elites operates, spin, spin and spin to brainwash the constituencies.

Anthony W Astaphan:

Dear Editor,


The comments to date indicate an ignorance of the facts by some. The suggestion there is no accountability in Dominica is asinine. I have dealt with this too many times. But its the reference to Noriega that I find conclusive of the level ignorance we must confront.

But my real focus is Rijock. I have spoken to Attorneys in the USA about him. I have read about him and the multiple judgments against him. I have read every blog by him on Dominica.

There is no question in my mind, and this is my opinion based on all of the above, that Rijock is a con and smear artist. All that he has done is regurgitate and vomit the trash given to him by opposition forces in Dominica. The rest he has either relied on self serving opinion or fabricated. This is why I have found Mr Dwyer Astaphan's ( who I have not spoken to unfortunately for years) question of Rijock's motives revealing and fascinating. There is a hidden motive and I am sure it has nothing to do with truth, integrity or fact.

Regards

Michael Davis:

Mr. Kenneth Rijock:

Violence in Roseau last night – the “shock event” failed – it is a direct result of your demonize of the CBI programme – you and others have orchestrated – with negative feature articles in the local, regional and international media. You guys have launched your massive assault during – a full two years – so as to create a two year negative pre-election and election campaign, aimed at crippling what is now the world leader in the industry - - - this strategy is the same used in St. Kitts before the last elections.

I repeat - Six questions for you:

1. Are you being paid by UWP or any of it's agents or representatives?

2. Are you being paid by anyone whom has an interest in Dominica politics?

3. Do you have an interest or want to get the "job" to conduct due diligence on behalf of any CBI program?

4. You seem to have a relationship or acquaintance with several Opposition activist in Dominica - what promises have they made to you or your company if they are successful in entering government?

5. You have mentioned Iranian national Alireza Monfared many times; why did you not done the same with the fact that the US Treasury Department has announced that the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has imposed sanctions for the violation of the prohibited ballistic missile program, against an Iranian businessman who holds a St Kitts and Nevis passport? He is CEO and Director Of MKS, Mr. Kambiz Rostamian, the holder of SKN Passport # RE0003026, who resides in the... " PRIOR to this current article?

6. Why do your articles read like a regurgitation of UWP talking points?

I patiently await your response.

Dr. Kermit D. Frog,Phd.,:

I will begin and end with posting the following link and in so doing dare Anthony W. Astaphan, Dwyer Astaphan and Michael Davis to respond...

https://audioboom.com/posts/5579112-prc-iran-money-laundering-and-sanctions-busting-in-the-caribbean-gregory-copley-defense-foreign-affairs

Let's put an end to the debate and the lies once and for all!!!

Brian - Concerned Dominican:

I would like to invite the spin Doctors to watch and listen.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xctyZQ4z0Cs

Anthony W Astaphan:

Dear Editor,

I will be sending you something for publication on the Defence & Foreign Affairs bit soon. However, the Frog's chest beating provoked me to post the following excerpts now .

"On the 4th February 2017 Mr. Peter Karam, while commenting on the similarity of this Special Analysis, wrote via email to about 90 persons the following words

‘Folks,
This little statement sounds confusing from The report,
and (b) it is probable that much of the Iranian oil was shipped to Iran.
 Does that make sense? how can Iran atatempt to bypass sanctions on the sale of their oil, put it on Dominica registered oil tankers an den ship their own oil back to dem selves,,, awah!!’ ( The errors are as written by Mr. Karam).

Thomson Fontaine, a Senator appointed by the Opposition United Workers Party, and Dominica manufacturer of allegations, immediately replied. He said top Mr Karam,

‘Peter that's a typo they meant China’

In other words, Fontaine response to Mr Karam was that the Copley meant oil was being shipped from Iran to China, and not to Iran. This meant that Fontaine and Copley are in fact alleging Iranian oil was being shipped to China from Iran by Dominica ships registered or administered in Greece in breach of the US oil embargo, and sanctions law. There was the clear imputation by Fontaine in his email. This was not surprising because a few days earlier Fontaine had written, and made, the same allegation in Dominica. But Fontaine’s knowledge of a possible typo by Copley begs the following questions (i) ‘How did Fontaine know there was a typo?, and (ii) ‘Did Fontaine provide the allegations to Copley, or bid he write or collaborate on the article?’ "

...

".....More importantly, Copley repeats the very same allegation made by Fontaine in Dominica in his Special Analysis. This is shockingly irresponsible by Copley to merely repeat an allegation without any independent inquiry.

Further, Copley does not seem to know that China was not subject to the Iranian oil embargo imposed by the United States. China and 10 or 11 other counties were exempted from that oil embargo by Secretary Clinton in 2012. [See for example (i)https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324069104578527803679519748; (ii) https://www.ft.com/content/8b8d6328-c1ac-11e1-8e7c-00144feabdc0; and (iii) http://www.ibtimes.com/iran-keeps-biggest-oil-customer-china-gets-us-sanctions-waiver-704947]"

......

"........The other part of the smear by Fontaine, and Copley, on Prime Minister and Dominica was that vessels flying the Dominican flag, registered and administered in Greece, were part and parcel of a massive violation of the US embargo and sanctions law by shipping Iranian oil to Chan. This is false for another indisputable reason. No ship or vessel flying the Dominica flag has evert 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. This agreement therefore prohibits the registration or administration of ships with Dominica’s flag anywhere other than in the United States."

Facts are facts.

Regards

Dr. Kermit D. Frog,Phd.,:

Mr. Anthony W. Astaphan's response to my comment (with link included) makes no sense. He blames locals here at home, particularly Thompson Fountaine, for feeding this information to Mr. Gregory Copley, a man who is very knowledgeable on foreign affairs matter and highly respected in Washington D.C.. Then, he accuses Mr. Copley of being "shockingly irresponsible" for "repeating an allegation". Where is Mr. Astaphan's proof of this? Mr. Astaphan is guilty of doing the very thing he is accusing others of doing.

First, he tries to discredit Kenneth Rijock and accused him of colluding with the United Workers Party, Dominica's Official Opposition. He also accused Mr. Rijock of being on a "smear campaign". Now, he is attempting to do the same with Mr. Copley absent any proof or evidence. Astaphan's credibility borders on either utter stupidity or a complete lack of morals and legal ethics.

The fact that more and more international media and informed persons are exposing the Prime Minister's role in the activities of Alireza Zahabalat Monfared must be driving Anthony W. Astaphan insane. He attributes Thompson Fountaine's guess that Copley's mention of oil being shipped to Iran was a typo and that he (Copley) actually meant China as proof that Thompson and Copley are collaborating. My God, Anthony W. Astaphan is laughable!!! Anthony I can easily say that the "or (bid) he write or collaborate on the article?" in your statement was a typo and that you meant to type "did" instead of "bid". Mr. Astaphan is truly grasping for straws on this one.

Astaphan then runs on with China's exception from the Iran Sanctions as if that automatically prevents China from purchasing black market oil at bargain prices. Then, finally, he concludes with some tidbit about a 1999 exclusive contract with an American (no name provided) that requires all ships carrying the Dominican Flag to be registered in the United States as if that automatically erases the fact that there are 11 oil tankers flying Dominican Flags and that at least one of these tankers were intercepted by the Government of Vietnam while carrying illegal oil. Anthony Astaphan thinks he is smarter than everybody else. Tony, the registration of the ships were NEVER an issue. What the ships were being used for IS!!!

Anthony W. Astaphan, maybe it will only take the arrest of your puppet Prime Minister, Roosevelt M. Skerrit, for you to come clean and stop the spins and lies but as of right now please don't believe you're fooling anyone! And, yes, rest assured, Skerrit will answer to the Trump Administration sooner than you think. By then, don't think you will be safe in your plush Weston, Florida home after the damage you have done to Dominica and the Dominican People with your mouth and frivolous lawsuits. Anthony W. Astaphan the world is watching you!!! Be very careful.

Michael Davis:

Dr. Kermit D. Frog, Phd aka Dr. Thompson Fointain

It is a disgrace - to see you teaming up with a right wing podcast whose broadcast usually support white causes of such that of the KKK and Hitler lovers. There most recent favorite topics was anti-Obama rhetoric and fake stories in support of Trump.

The audio boom - which I listen - is an illogical regurgitation of your party's propaganda at best; much of broadcast is clearly untrue - and - connections made are plainly not factual.

But - I guess your fight for power has reduced you to political reactionary. Gone is the progressive agenda and revolutionary days we had at Saint Mary's Academy.



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