Political Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Senator Nazim Burke has fired another shot at Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell calling on him to resign in the wake of the US$1 Million scandal involving controversial Utah businessman, Robert Martin Oveson.
Speaking to reporters at the weekly press briefing held by Congress, Sen. Burke said the Prime Minister should step down as the Minister responsible for Citizenship and initiate a thorough investigation into the country’s Citizenship by Investment programme.
He charged that there was lingering clouds of suspicion looming over the level of due diligence that is conducted in considering applications for Grenadian citizenship status under the programme.
“The Prime Minister has not been able to provide leadership and guidance to this programme. It is hurting the country’s reputation, image, investment brand and it is raising the risk that if these due diligence is not properly done, that security risks can also emerge out of incompetence or failure to do due diligence,” he said.
THE NEW TODAY newspaper has broken the story about Kittian economic citizen Roger Ver filing a criminal complaint to law enforcement officials in Grenada that US$1 million was fraudulently taken away from him by Oveson for a Grenadian passport.
Oveson is listed as the Managing Director of the Nevis-based NTL Trust, a company that is an approved marketing agent for Grenada’s passport selling scheme.
Ver has also field a lawsuit in the Supreme Court Registry seeking the recovery of his money plus another US$1 million in damages for loss of the funds.
Sen. Burke referenced the March 3 front page article of THE NEW TODAY headlined, “US$1 Million fraud linked to Levera,” which highlighted the fraud allegations against Oveson, who was initially a key player in the Levera Development Project in the north of the island, which is now being run by his brother Stephen Randall Oveson.
Sen. Burke argues that this latest development has put yet another stain on the CBI programme and the investment climate in the country.
“We have pointed out before the dangers of this programme and as it is run, the reputational risks and security that it brings to Grenada,” he told reporters, pointing to the circumstances surrounding the US$2billion Mt. Hartman Project and embattled Chinese investor, Charles Liu.
Linked to the Liu matter, the Congress boss said is the continued appointment of a politically exposed person as Head of the FIU, which is involved in the due diligence screening process for the CBI.
“This problem is clearly not going away. The government is clearly not prepared to heed the allegations and to address them in (a) serious way. We must remember that these allegations (are) not the first of its kind,” Sen. Burke said.
He recalled that Liu who is the main architect behind the Mt. Hartman project and his United Damei Investment Company, which has been granted authority as a marketing agent of the CBI has been accused of fraud in connection with US$27M received from Chinese investors to do business in the United States.
Burke noted that Liu was also accorded status as Grenada’s commercial attaché at the Chinese Embassy in Beijing as well as a diplomatic passport.
NDC has consistently called on the Mitchell-led government to revoke Liu’s company as a marketing agent for the CBI, his diplomatic passport and appointment as commercial attaché.
However, Sen. Burke said that the NNP regime continues to maintain that “these issues have nothing to do with Grenada…”.
“This situation cannot be allowed to continue – the risks for Grenada are simply too high. The Prime Minister must be held responsible for what is going on (as) these difficulties falls squarely at his feet,” he added.
According to Sen. Burke, the unfolding events with the CBI also underscore the need for Prime Minister Mitchell to remove Minister Emmalin Pierre as the line minister for the CBI programme.
Minister Pierre is the wife of the current head of the FIU, Superintendent of Police, Tafawa Pierre.
Sen. Burke stated that “if she Minister Pierre is the wife of Mr. Pierre and is linked in any way to any of these investigations then you will have a situation where he (Supt. Pierre) is being asked to investigate his wife.”
He reiterated that such a situation “creates an appearance of conflict, even if there is no conflict and therefore we must ensure that these things do not happen”.
The NDC Political Leader also registered concerns with the file given by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Christopher Nelson QC to Supt Pierre to investigate the fraud allegations leveled at Oveson.
He said the person who is being asked to investigate this financial crime is the same person who is being asked to do the due diligence and that in itself places Supt. Pierre in a position of conflict.
…If he (Pierre) is the person responsible for doing due diligence and now it is discovered that due diligence was not done and now Mr. Tafawa Pierre is now asked to investigate the crime itself then it may not be in his best interest to conclude that due diligence was not done…a person who would have conducted the due diligence should not be the person that is asked to conduct the investigation into the crime.
“Mr. Pierre, notwithstanding his professionalism, talent and ability is a politically exposed person and should not be holding that position as head of the FIU according to the FIU Act, which prohibits giving that position to any person who is politically exposed.
The NDC leader called for the Director of Audit to conduct an audit into the CBI programme, and for the Prime Minister to file the reports that he is supposed to file in Parliament under section 15 of the CBI Act, which requires for a report to be filed every 6 months.
“So far in three years only 1 report has been filed (when) 6 should have been filed already,” Sen. Burke said.
“This is faulting the law of Grenada. It is disrespect for the laws and Constitution of our country. It disobeys the cardinal rule that every minister of government ought to give an oath and abide by the oath to obey the laws of the country so help me God. That is not happening in this particular situation and the Prime Minister should resign in his capacity as Minister responsible for Citizenship By Investment,” he added.
In the latest CBI issue, Ver filed paper in court alleging that he handed over US$350, 000.00 to Oveson towards the development of the Mount Cinnamon resort, a hotel project belonging to British businessman, Peter deSavary that was earmarked to benefit from funds raised through the CBI programme.
However, the application was turned down and Ver said that Oveson kept this fact from him and instead asked him to make a bigger contribution of US$1 million for the Levera project that would guarantee him a Grenadian passport.
The Tokyo-based Ver has vowed to use every means at his disposal to recover his money from the Grenada CBI agent.