The cash-strapped Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government in St. George’s has taken another major step towards the selling of Grenadian passports in a bid to boost revenue in the Treasury.
The government has given the go-ahead to six of the country’s lawyers to act as local agents to start handling the process that leads to the sale of passports.
The names of the qualifying lawyers were published in the February 6, 2014 issue of the Government Gazette as required by the law.
Topping the list is Michelle Emmanuel-Steele, the wife of the current Minister of Foreign Affairs and Member of Parliament for the Town of St. George, Nicholas Steele.
The others are President of the Senate, Lawrence Joseph, as well as his Guyana-born wife, Avril Anande Trotman-Joseph, along with Venescia Francis-Banfield, Margaret Wilkinson and her sister Shireen Wilkinson.
According to the gazette, the lawyers have been granted “the licence of a local agent” to enable each one of them “to conduct business in the State of Grenada pursuant to the terms and conditions specified in the …. Grenada Citizenship by Investment Act 15 of 2013”.
All six are believed to have some kind of association with leading figures within the governing New National Party (NNP) of Prime Minister Mitchell.
The name of Attorney-at-law Emmanuel-Steele had surfaced as a possible agent before the government had passed the sale of passport law in Parliament.
The female lawyer was mentioned in a promotion on the internet with an outfit involving Ambassador-at-large, Peter deSavary as one of the groups trying to woo investors to the island as part of the citizenship by investment programme.
In the case of Lawrence Joseph, he has held different top positions with the NNP administration over the years including Attorney-General and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The Wilkinson sisters are from the law firm of Wilkinson,Wilkinson and Wilkinson.
One of the sisters, Roslyn Wilkinson, a qualified attorney at law, is now serving as a judge on the OECS circuit. Roslyn was once married to the brother of Prime Minister Mitchell.
Attorney Francis-Banfield has often been used by Prime Minister Mitchell in legal matters brought against a number of individuals in the country.
One of most recent assignment is to try and remove accountant Garvey Louison as the Court-appointed Liquidator in a matter involving the now defunct GRENADA TODAY newspaper.
Speculation is rife about a rift between Prime Minister Mitchell and Louison with Dr. Mitchell trying to replace Louison with another local accountant, Rupert Agostini.
Informed sources told THE NEW TODAY that another batch of persons are currently being processed by government to give them status as agents for the sale of local passports including a prominent member of the Public Service Commission (PSC).
Government has already appointed a six-member committee to oversee the Citizenship by Investment Committee.
The head is accountant David Holukoof, husband of attorney-at-law Leslie-Ann Seon, a former President of the Senate under a previous Mitchell government.
Other members are accountant Rupert Agostini, attorney-at-law, Kim George, as well as Bill Robinson, Cuthbert Noel and Sabrina Gibbs.
When he delivered the 2014 budget in Parliament in December, Prime Minister Mitchell announced that persons wanting to invest in the programme would have to make contributions of US$500, 000.00 with $50, 000.00 going to government directly and the remaining $US$450, 000.00 to approve projects.
The projects earmarked by the administration for financial contributions were a new hospital for the island, West India Spices, the Port Louis Development in the Lagoon, a hotel resort at Mt. Hartman and the staled St. David’s Town Centre Development in which Chief Economic Advisor to Government, Dr. Patrick Antoine is a major investor.