Speculation is rife that a religious outfit in Grenada might have received a large sum of money in the form of charity from embattled Chinese investor, Charles Liu who is facing a charge of fraud in the United States.
This information came at a press conference hosted by the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) at its weekly press conference held Monday at the party’s head office on H.A. Blaize Street in St. George’s.
NDC Chairman, Vincent Roberts did not reveal the name of the local organisation but said that the donation is somewhere in the region of “what we would call upper five figures”.
Well-placed sources told THE NEW TODAY that the figure is around $EC84, 000.00.
This newspaper understands that the funds that were received from Liu were used by the religious group to purchase lands in St. George North-east constituency.
Roberts spoke of engaging a senior official of the organization on the issue of the funds that were accepted from the coffers of Liu.
“I told him that I had reason to believe that his organisation has received an unusually large sum of money from Mr. Charles Liu and (I asked) was he in a position to confirm, he said, “yes, I can confirm that monies were received”.
According to the NDC Chairman, he is “speaking with the organisation to have them publicly return the money to Mr. Liu and to publicly acknowledge having received the money”.
The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on June 2 announced fraud charges and an asset freeze against Liu and his wife, who are both accused of misusing two-thirds of the money raised from investors for the purpose of building and operating a new cancer treatment center in California.
The NDC has been calling on the Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s to revoke Liu’s diplomatic status as Commercial Trade Attaché at the Grenada Embassy in Beijing, China.
Roberts told reporters that Congress had taken note of a recent order issued by a judge in California in which he rejected Liu’s request for him to be allowed to use $12, 250 per month from the frozen accounts for personal living expenses. “Now if he (Liu) is asking the US Court to allow him to use $12, 250 a month from the frozen accounts, one must wonder – is it possible that his personal living expenses are now being funded from monies obtained for investment in the Mt. Hartman project? he asked.
The Chinese businessman is regarded as the driving force behind the US$2Billion Mt. Hartman project, which includes the development of the Mt. Hartman Peninsular and Hog Island.
The project is expected to include high-end resorts, a wellness centre and other recreational and entertainment features.
A Grenadian associate of Liu told this newspaper on Tuesday that although the project has halted for the time being he expected it to be back on stream before year-end.
He said that Liu is currently engaged in negotiations with SEC officials to resolve the issue and had found new investors for the Grenada project.
Roberts used the press briefing to reiterate NDC’s call for the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to investigate Liu since it believes that others on the island including individuals and corporations might have received financial gifts from the embattled Chinese investor.
He said the probe should not be conducted under the auspices of the current Acting Head of the FIU, Superintendent Tafawa Pierre, who is the husband of female Government Minister, Emmalin Pierre who is considered a politically exposed person.
He contended that Supt. Pierre is disqualified by law from holding the office as he is deemed to be in violation of Section 15 (f) of the FIU Act.
According to the act a person is disqualified from being appointed as a Director of the FIU and should not hold the post if he is or becomes a politically exposed person.
Roberts explained that the interpretation of a politically exposed person in the FIU Act has the meaning assigned to it under the Proceeds of Crime Act, Act 6, 2012, which he noted defines a politically exposed person as “a person who formally or currently is or has been entrusted with a permanent public function with the Executive, Legislative, Administrative or judicial branch of government or an immediate family member or close associate of such person”.
Roberts expressed the view that “it is very unfortunate that the person who is heading the FIU, Mr. Tafawa Pierre is a person who is currently entrusted with a prominent public function in the executive and legislative branch of government to wit, Minister Emmalin Pierre and he is her immediate family being her spouse”.
“While Mr. Pierre has not been confirmed in the position and he is referred to as the acting Director, he is the de-facto Director and a person acting as Director must fall within the ambit of the law”, he remarked.
The NDC Chairman said, “Mr. Pierre, as a politically exposed person is functioning in breach of the Act and as such, we (the NDC) are not satisfied that he can adequately and competently carry out the functions required as Director of the FIU and we are calling for his immediate removal from that position”.
The Mitchell-led government has not acceded to Congress’ request to remove Supt. Pierre from his FIU posting.