In the wake of the January 1, 2017, edition of CBS News 60 Minutes
which featured comments from me in a story dubbed “Passports for Sale”, the prime minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit has led a disgraceful campaign of lies, deception and propaganda to discredit, demonize and dehumanize me as a participant in a conspiracy to cause the demise of Dominica’s citizenship by investment programme.
For the avoidance of doubt, as a citizen of Dominica by birth, a parliamentarian representing the people of Marigot and leader of the parliamentary opposition, I agreed to be interviewed by CBS News 60 Minutes
for a story on citizenship by investment in the Caribbean.
In his tissue of lies to trick and deceive, the prime minister claims that my appearance on 60 Minutes
was influenced and/or financed by Henley & Partners and/or its chairman Chris Kalin, who “has never been disposed to Dominica” because of his administration’s “refusal to hire them as the exclusive agent for our citizenship by investment programme”.
In dismissing this outrageous lie, I state categorically:
1. Neither the United Workers Party nor myself have any party assistance, campaign financing, consultancy arrangement or cooperation agreement with Chris Kalin and/or Henley and Partners
2. I dealt directly with the producers of 60 Minutes
who extended the invitation and there was absolutely no third party involvement in my decision to agree to the interview
3. In every respect and every aspect, I spoke the same truth I have been speaking for years about matters of concern in the evolution of an economic citizenship program that would keep Dominica away from being a threat to global security. I said what I meant; I meant what I said in the public interest of Dominica. I was correctly quoted and represented.
The prime minister was invited to appear on the CBS News 60 Minutes
program. He declined. And then between himself and his ambassador in the US capital Vince Henderson, another lie is being manufactured to claim that he was not invited. Instead of ridiculing and crucifying me for speaking incontrovertible truths on behalf of the poor people of this country, Skerrit can do the honorable thing, follow my example and accept the invitation of CBS News 60 Minutes
to tell his CBI truths and facts to a global audience. Unfortunately, the coward hides behind claims that the “dirty linen” of the program confirmed by members of his own team, should not be washed in public.
Much has been said by Skerrit and his army of propagandists about the term “mail order” to which the Dominica CBI program was likened. It was Steve Kroft, the CBS News 60 Minutes correspondent who suggested in a question that since passport purchasers could pay for their passports from wherever they are in the world and did not have to show up in Dominica to receive them, then it was “sorta mail order citizenship”. I replied: “Sort of. Something like that.”
In the CBI program, as is the case in the mail order business, there is no face to face contact between buyer and seller in the exchange of goods and/or services for money. The Skerrit administration’s embarrassment with the inconvenience of this fact doesn’t make it any less true that there are fundamental similarities between buying a Dominican passport and buying a pair of shoes on Amazon.com.
It is the view of the parliamentary opposition in Dominica that the transparency and accountability discipline needed to ensure the integrity of Dominica’s citizenship by investment program quite simply does not exist. There is the classic case of an employee of the Citizenship by Investment Unit transferring to his personal account at Dominica branch of an international bank an amount of $1.5 million and declaring “sale of passports” as the source of funds. In the face of this glaring example of Corruption of CBI revenues 101, Skerrit and the other mouthpieces of CBI accountability and transparency responded with the loud sound of silence.
But even more dangerous than the security concerns driven by this lack of transparency and accountability is the under the table trade since 2004 of Dominica diplomatic passports to a global band of scoundrels, fugitives, tax cheats, fraudsters and money launderers. Facilitated by the Skerrit administration, this guild of rogues is intensifying its assault on our international diplomacy to entrench itself as the single biggest threat to the integrity, safety and continuity of the CBI program.
Dominica’s corps of “dodgy diplomats” includes:
1. Diezani Allison Madueke – the former Nigerian oil resources minister, holder of Dominica diplomatic passport DP0000445 issued in May 2015, accused of stealing hundreds of millions from the public purse
2. Francesco Corallo – Skerrit’s 2011 choice for ambassador to the FAO in Rome who held a Dominica diplomatic passport while he was on Interpol’s list of most wanted criminals
3. NG Lap Seng – holder of Dominica diplomatic passport who claims he influenced Skerrit to switch diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China, currently in the custody of US law enforcement awaiting trial on charges of bribery and money laundering.
Skerrit claims, his government suspended relations with Madueke and Corallo when their entanglements with the law became public. But to date, the prime minister has not been able to deny that his out of favour diplomats are still in possession of the Dominica diplomatic passports. Instead, the Foreign Minister Francine Baron has refused to answer a question posed in the Parliament seeking the names of holders of Dominica diplomatic passports who are not members of Parliament and who have had those diplomatic passports either withdrawn or revoked prior to expiration.
In the circumstances, I verily believe these to be two current examples of diplomatic passports that have been sold to questionable individuals who are in trouble with the law but continue to hold on to the diplomatic passports because they paid top dollar for them and the money they paid “under the table” has not been refunded.
We are deeply concerned that, under Skerrit’s watch, the citizenship by investment program has been mismanaged and corrupted to become primarily a source of funding for Labour Party theft of elections and wealth creation for a chosen few while thousands of young people cannot find jobs; small business owners, farmers, construction workers and service sector employees are catching hell; health care is in decline and students at UWI cannot graduate because their government (swimming in passport millions) has not paid the agreed UWI economic cost.
On one hand the Skerrit administration claims that Dominica is dependent on tourism, foreign direct investment and international assistance in times of natural disasters and on the other hand it refuses to recognize and accept Dominica’s moral obligation to responsible behaviour for the advancement of global civilization. In fact, Skerrit and his team appear to be claiming an absolute right to engage in behaviours (like under the table sale of diplomatic passports) that endanger the security of other nations – the same tourist markets we are relying on – with the excuse that such behaviour is driven by economic necessity.
Skerrit and company ask the question, what do I want?
• I want an immediate end to the under the table sale of Dominica’s diplomatic passports and/or the assignment of diplomatic rank and privileges to crooks and criminals. Does Skerrit want that too?
• I want full transparency and accountability in the management of Dominica’s CBI program. Does Skerrit want that too?
• I want Dominica to resolve the concerns over breaches to the global security architecture from its CBI program as represented by officials of the US Department of Homeland Security. Does Skerrit want that too?
• I want immediate cancellation of the practice of paying huge, sweetheart commissions to an exclusive marketer when the work of promoting and selling passports is being done by agents. Does Skerrit want that too?
• I want funds from the sale of Dominican passports to benefit all Dominicans and not just the chosen few marketers and agents and those privileged to chose them. Does Skerrit want that too?
Quite obviously, he does not.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader