Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has admitted that the ruling New National Party (NNP) government has continued with the controversial policy of giving non-nationals diplomatic passports to operate as Grenadian diplomats.
Dr. Mitchell made the disclosure at Tuesday’s post-Cabinet press conference to a question posed by a reporter from THE NEW TODAY newspaper.
The Prime Minister, however, said that he was unable to give the number of non-nationals who currently holds Grenadian diplomatic status.
“…I can’t tell you the number right now. It’s not a lot because we don’t have a lot – a lot of countries that we have that sort of arrangement with but there is but I am pretty sure…”, he said.
The 2003-08 Mitchell-led government was warned by Barbadian jurist, Sir Richard Cheltenham who submitted a report at the end of a probe into the Switzerland Briefcase issue in which Dr. Mitchell was accused of accepting a bribe of US$500, 000.00 in Switzerland by convicted fraudster Eric Resteiner in exchange for a diplomatic passport.
Sir Richard advised the government to give official passports and not diplomatic passports to non-nationals who were accredited diplomatic status by Grenada.
Prime Minister Mitchell was asked at the press conference whether the granting of diplomatic passports to the current set of non-nationals was not flying in the face of the Cheltenham report.
“You going back to briefcase. I mean really, you’re going back to briefcase that has been proved to be totally false. I can’t give you a yes or no answer on a question that has no issue my dear sister. It has no basis, it has no basis. I would be ashamed to raise briefcase now…I love briefcase but it has been proven to be a hoax…”, he said.
“We should not even have had a (Cheltenham) report because the thing was false – so, some people caused the country to spend millions of dollars, unnecessarily so…”, he added.
Several Caribbean leaders have been accused of being engaged in the fraudulent practice of selling diplomatic passports to unsavoury characters and pocketing the money.
THE NEW TODAY understands that the market price for a diplomatic passport for an ambassadorial posting is US$1 million dollars and $US300, 000.00 for the post of Honorary Consul.
Dr. Mitchell’s startling statement about the Switzerland briefcase issue being “a hoax” is not in keeping with a report from the United States government which has in its possession a tape-recording of the transaction from Resteiner himself.
The U.S State Department has admitted in leaked documents that Prime Minister Mitchell was “Caught on Tape” in the Resteiner affair.
The U.S government report said: “While in U.S. custody, Eric Resteiner revealed to law enforcement officials that he possessed a videotape that showed PM Mitchell taking the suitcase containing US$50,000.
“Resteiner offered to turn the tape over to the USG in the hope that this would help him obtain a more favourable plea arrangement. Federal prosecutors and FBI agents viewed the tape and confirmed that it showed Mitchell accepting the cash and unsuccessfully attempting to stuff it into his pockets.
“They did not, however, accept the tape as part of a plea because Mitchell could not be indicted as a co-conspirator by law enforcement officials without their first receiving high-level approval from within the USG”.
Under the 2008-13 Congress government of Tillman Thomas, current Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Christopher Nelson and then Attorney-General, Jimmy Bristol travelled to the United States to view the video tape.
The two Grenada officials had to take an oath in the United States not to disclose the contents of what they saw on the videotape.
Prime Minister Mitchell has consistently denied accepting a bribe from Resteiner insisting that he collected US$15,000 from the businessman as reimbursements for expenses incurred during an official travel to Europe and the Middle East to attract Investment to Grenada.