Political Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Senator Nazim Burke is calling for a full-scale investigation into the connection between Government Ministers and Officials in St. George’s and Grenada’s Commercial Attache to the Grenada Embassy in Beijing, China, Charles Liu.
Sen. Burke’s call came amidst anti-fraud charges brought against Ambassador Liu who gained Grenadian Citizenship status through the country’s Citizen By Investment (CBI) Act.
Liu and his wife, Xin “Lisa” Wang have been charged with fraud by the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States in connection with a proton cancer treatment business in California.
The husband and wife who are from Laguna, Niguel, California are accused of misusing two-thirds of the money they raised from investors for the project.
The SEC reported that the California couple raised US $27M from at least 50 Chinese investors seeking US Immigration Visas, but misused two-thirds of the money, instead of building a cancer treatment centre they had proposed.
Liu and his wife promoted the facility as a project that would help the Chinese Investors obtain permanent US Visas through a Federal Programme known as EB-5, the SEC said.
Liu is accused of transferring US $11.8M of the funds to three firms in China, including one in which he is Chief Executive and Chairman.
Another charge made against him is that he diverted seven million dollars to personal accounts for him and his wife.
Sen. Burke told a radio Talk show Programme the investigation should include a full inquiry into whether and to what extent the money that is being used by the Liu Family is money taken from American Investors, and is now being used in Grenada as part of the Mt. Hartman tourism project.
He said an investigation must be conducted to determine whether or not the Chinese businessman made offers or solicitations to Government Ministers or Government Officials in Grenada and if any money or payments of money were handed out to any.
There are unconfirmed reports that the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has in its possession bank documents about “an indirect payment” to someone described as “high-up” in the administration.
Speculation is rife that the payment was allegedly used to facilitate a mortgage transaction.
Sen. Burke said the probe should also look at trips made to China by Government Officials and to determine if any were funded by the embattled Liu.
Foreign Affairs Minister Clarice Modeste-Curwen is known to have travelled to China to help promote the Grenada Resorts Complex Project.
No details are available on the funding arrangements for the trip.
Sen. Burke indicated that apart from the Modeste-Curwen trip in December 2015, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Legal Affairs, Elvin Nimrod also visited China to give support to Ambassador Liu’s effort to recruit investors for the proposed Grenada Resorts Complex Project.
He said while no accusations are being levelled against these two senior Government Ministers, it is necessary to consider whether and to what extent Liu or his related companies may have financed or contributed in any way to the travel or accommodation arrangements of Government Officials or Ministers.
“The investigation must determine whether and to what extent Mr. Liu has collected money from people to invest in the Grenada Resort Project in light of what we’ve seen, and what has become of those monies,” he told reporters.
Sen. Burke also called on the Mitchell Administration to freeze all of the assets in Grenada belonging to the controversial Chinese businessman.
“The Investigation must include what assets Mr. Liu may have acquired, if any… for his personal benefits. Are there yachts, are there planes, are there boats?” he asked.
The Congress leader dismissed statements coming from certain quarters that the charges in the United States have nothing to do with Grenada.
He indicated that the website of the Grenada Resorts Complex Project has information about the United Demi Group (UDG) which showcases it as the promotional agent for the local project.
“The same United Demi Group is presented as the world marketing agent for the Grenada Project. The complaint that is filed in the United States (of America) identifies the United Demi Group… as one of the companies that the Liu family transferred monies to in China,” he said.
“$3.8M of investors money have gone to the United Demi Group, the same group that is the marketing agent for the project here in Grenada,” he added.
Sen. Burke told the host of the programme that Lisa Wang, the wife of Liu is the Chief Executive Officer of UDG.
“So the suggestion by the Government Ministers, both Sen. Sheldon Scott and also Oliver Joseph… that this has absolutely nothing to do with Grenada is completely fallacious – it’s fallacy, completely without any merit and foundation, and defies logic, and defies common sense,” he said.
Sen. Burke believes that Liu has now become a liability rather than an asset to Grenada by virtue of the SEC charges slapped on him.
The Congress Leader who is a former Minister of Finance in the 2008-13 Tillman Thomas-led Government said should his political party form the next government in St. George’s it will undertake a comprehensive review of the CBI Programme to determine whether the benefits that may be derived from it are outweighed by the risk for Grenada or greater for Grenada.
He said if it creates a risk for the country, the programme will be abandoned.
Sen. Burke indicated that the Liu issue is not the first time that Grenada has found itself receiving negative international publicity with one of its foreign diplomats.
He recalled that under a previous Mitchell-led Government between 1995 and 2004, the “reckless decisions” of granting economic citizenship and Grenadian Diplomatic Passport to “international criminals, con men who were fugitive from justice saw Grenada emerging as a haven for them to hide from justice.”
The last known Grenadian diplomat to be sent to jail was the German-born, Ambassador Eric Resteiner who allegedly paid PM Mitchell a US$500, 000.00 bribe in St. Moritz, Switzerland for a diplomatic posting.
Dr. Mitchell denied any wrongdoing, claiming that he collected “approximately US$15, 000.00” from Resteiner to reimburse him for travel expenses.