The Tillman Thomas-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) has raised the spectre of a link in the 2013 general election campaign between the main opposition New National Party (NNP) and a controversial group of Russian oilmen.
Addressing a rally of Congress held at Carlton Junction in St. Andrew’s last week Sunday, Deputy Political Leader, Nazim Burke warned Grenadians to be on guard against those who are seeking to dispose of the country’s natural resources to foreigners.
Burke pointed a finger in the direction of former Deputy Prime Minister, Gregory Bowen who is widely regarded as the defacto Number two in the NNP hierarchy and had cultivated a relationship with the Russian group known as Global Petroleum Group (GPG).
This newspaper understands that the Congress administration has been monitoring the movement in and out of Grenada of some wealthy Russians within the past two weeks.
“What is it that we have that these Russians want? Why are they so insistent on being present in our faces? Why every time we hear about them we are hearing the name of a nominated candidate for the New National Party?
The questions were posed to THE NEW TODAY newspaper, which interviewed a high-ranking member of Congress.
He said that a mega yacht with some twenty-three persons on board including a few Russians came into Grenada within days of the announcement of the February 19 general elections by Prime Minister Thomas and docked at one of the marinas on the island.
He pointed out that the suspicious group spent one or two nights in the marina before they departed.
“What is interesting is that this yacht was seen in the Black Bay area which, though not unusual, the length of time spent was enough to raise our eyebrows”, he said.
Investigations carried out by The New Today indicate that three Russians left the yacht and came ashore and went down to the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) at Point Salines as if to suggest that they had just came into Grenada.
The Russians later took a taxi to a hotel in the south and reportedly met one night with a high-raking official of NNP.
Amidst widespread reports in the country that Russians were in town, the Immigration Department questioned them but within hours the visitors chartered a plane and departed for St. Lucia.
The yacht, which brought them into, the country also departed for Anguilla.
According to the official, the Thomas government is currently looking into reports that a former Minister in the 13-year Mitchell administration and senior member of the party departed Grenada for St. Lucia last Sunday on board a chartered aircraft.
A female worker with one of the airline handlers at MBIA who is said to be the wife of a policeman, reportedly accompanied the ex-government minister on the trip to St. Lucia.
The reports reaching THE NEW TODAY are that the NNP official and his escort were back in Grenada from St. Lucia within three hours.
“They (the Ex-Minister and the lady) passed through the airport without being thoroughly processed, especially as they were noticed to be carrying an additional bag to the one they left with”, said the source.
He felt that the Security forces lapsed since they had every reason to check the bags to determine the contents.
He said Congress is suspicious of the Russians and believe that they might be
making large financial donations to NNP in the ongoing campaign.
“The New National Party has been sporting a ridiculous amount of
readily available cash, which cannot be accounted for in our local economy.
The question that should be asked is what is the source of such cash?
“Is it true that the Russians have financed their campaign to the tune of over
US$10 million (EC$27 million)? If so, what do the Russians expect in return? Is
it our oil and natural gas which we are sure to have in our waters? These are the important questions we need to ask before the vote.
“The glitz and glamour of the NNP campaign, with all the free money
pelting all over the place must be paid for. It is normally assumed that he who gives something is looking for something in return in political campaigns.
Burke who is the country’s Finance Minister recalled that in 2002, the NNP regime of then Prime Minister Mitchell entered into an agreement with RSM Corporation, owned and operated by American oil investor, Jack to explore for oil and gas in local waters.
The contract was eventually broken by the Mitchell Government, which resulted in a lawsuit being filed against St. George’s by Grynberg.
Within months of this development, the administration entered into another arrangement with respect to the island’s natural resources with the Russians who decided to help underwrite the legal costs of the Grynberg lawsuit.
When the NNP lost power in the July 2008 general elections, a document was found by the new rulers, which pointed to a missing US$600, 000.00 in the donations from the Russians to Grenada.
In the document seen by this newspaper, one of the Russians involved in GPG was asking Deputy Prime Minister Bowen to account for the funds.
According to Minister Burke, up to this day the money is yet to be accounted for. Bowen has never been questions by local prosecutors on the matter.
“These are the same Russians that continue to come into our country every few months,” Burke said.
The senior government minister charged that the Russians have been having secret meetings with Bowen and that a former NDC Government Minister whom he did not name also had a secret meeting with the Russians at a hotel.
“We understand that our oil and gas might be what is being discussed,” Burke said, adding that Congress would soon release additional information about the connection between the Russians and several local persons.