Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Legal Affairs, Elvin Nimrod has hinted that the recommendations made by Barbadian Attorney-at-Law, Richard Cheltenham on the appointment of non-nationals as diplomats were not considered in issuing a diplomatic passport to embattled Chinese Investor, Charles Liu.
Dr. Cheltenham was recruited under a former New National Party (NNP) government to probe into allegations that Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell had accepted a bribe of US$500, 000.00 in a briefcase from fraudster Eric Resteiner in St. Moritz, Switzerland in June 2000 in exchange for a diplomatic position.
The Barbadian jurist recommended that a major trust in going forward is to exclude non-nationals who are recruited for diplomatic service to be awarded diplomatic passports.
He suggested the use of official passports to non-national diplomats and for those who volunteer their services to be excluded since “they almost always have an interest of their own which may be wholly inconsistent with the best interests of the country”.
Ambassador Liu was recruited and given the post of Commercial Attaché’ to the Grenada Embassy in Beijing and handed a diplomatic passport.
The Chinese businessman who is the leading investor in the $2 Billion Mt Hartman Project, has been charged with fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States over use of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Programme in the United States.
The SEC imposed an asset freeze against Liu and his wife for misusing two thirds of the money that they raised from investors for the purpose of building a Cancer hospital in the US.
Liu has become the first person with a Grenadian economic citizenship passport to be charged following the reintroduction of the passport selling scheme by the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration two years ago.
During Tuesday’s post-Cabinet Press Briefing, Minister Nimrod was specifically asked if any of Cheltenham’s recommendations were considered by the NNP regime in issuing the diplomatic passport to Liu.
Without being specific, the No.2 man in the administration said: “I cannot remember whether or not Cheltenham recommendations include due diligence, I wouldn’t think so…”.
“…Mr. Cheltenham recommendations are just what it is recommendations.
Government has a responsibility and on obligation to run the country in the manner in which the government receive a mandate. So Mr. Cheltenham, our respect to him cannot tell us to whom to give diplomatic passports because Barbados, his country does the same thing in certain limited instances,” he added.
THE NEW TODAY understands that Barbados does not have a Citizenship By Investment Scheme in which non-nationals can purchase passports.
However, Minister Nimrod said that the Grenada government did the necessary due diligence on Liu before recruiting him to serve as one of the country’s diplomats.
“Charles Lui is a citizen of Grenada through the CBI programme which is legal. The government obligation before making the appointment was to do a due diligence and that was done. As a matter of fact, coincidently one of the Agencies that did a due diligence test was a US based agency and of course we’ve done everything that we’re supposed to do…”, he told reporters.
“…I wanna make this quite clear that Charles Liu has not been charged with anything, he is just under investigation…we live in a system of laws where one is presumed innocent until found guilty and at this point we cannot of course condemn Charles Liu because of course there was no charges brought against him at this point, neither was he convicted of anything,” he added.
Giving support to the Minister at the conference was Attorney General, Cajeton Hood who insisted the Charles Liu issue in the United States would not affect the Billion Dollar tourism project at Mt Hartman.
The SEC has frozen Liu’s assets and a court order was obtained prohibiting him from raising any further money for the cancer treatment project.
AG Hood is adamant that the SEC action would not affect the Grenada project as the sanctions in the United States relate to the project in California.
“The freezing of assets that you’re referring to refers to a programme … in place in (the) USA…it has nothing to do with Mr. Liu’s assets in general…”.
“(The) …frozen assets (are) with respect to that programme in the United States. We do not know exactly who were the participants in the United States…”.
“…We have some information regarding who are the participants to the programme in Grenada and we have assurances that Mr. Liu’s involvement with the matter in the United States would not affect the progress of the project here in Grenada…”.
Like other government ministers, AG Hood gave assurances that the Mitchell-led government will not take any action against Liu unless he is criminally charged.
“We prefer to wait to see what type of conviction there is and there is no charge. There is no conviction possible as yet, there is no information regarding any charge. There is an investigation, not at a criminal level regarding conduct in a programme in the United States”, he said.
“We ought to wait until the outcome of that…we cannot presume somebody is guilty and say that we’re going to do that if the person is guilty that’s not fair…”, he added.
The government’s Chief Legal adviser stated that the project at Mt Hartman is continuing as “there is a local manager, there are persons who are involved right now” working on the site.
According to AG Hood, it is wrong for persons to use the word fraud in the Charles Liu matter as he has not done anything wrong based on law.
He said it is not fair to Liu to convict him of wrong-doing because of the word fraud as cited by the SEC.