The Keith Mitchell-led government in St. George’s is being called upon to come clean with the nation regarding conflicting statements made by three senior government ministers in connection with the 3-year-old Citizenship By Investment (CBI) programme.
Speaking at a press conference last week Monday, Deputy Political Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) Joseph Andall called on the New National Party (NNP) administration to address allegations about the CBI passport-selling scheme, which he argued has been “operating under a cloud of secrecy, suspicion, rumours and allegations.
“We have been bombarded in recent times with allegations of shady dealings involving the alleged sale of Grenadian diplomatic passports…”, he said.
Stating that NDC does not have the facts about the allegations, Andall said that “we believe that in order to save, protect and defend the integrity of the programme and the people who are legitimate holders of Grenadian diplomatic passports the government has a serious responsibility to get to the bottom of those allegations.
Miami-based blogger Kenneth Rijock recently posted a picture which shows Prime Minister Mitchell in the company of someone named PK Sandhu, who was labelled as a questionable character and the alleged holder of Grenadian diplomatic passport.
In his August 31 blog posting, Rijock claimed that Sandhu has relocated to Grenada, where he is out of the reach of UK law enforcement agencies after forcing a United Kingdom-based company into liquidation due to his so-called “criminal conduct.”
The blog also stated that Sandhu is fully protected as a Grenadian diplomat.
Prime Minister Mitchell has reportedly dismissed as fraudulent stating that the picture was put together by someone using the Adobe Photoshop graphic programme since he does not know Sandhu and had never met the individual.
The Congress No.2 man addressed recent “statements made by Health Minister Nicholas Steele that the allegations concerning the sale of diplomatic passports are connected to the upcoming general elections in Grenada.
The minister charged that those behind these allegations are trying to discredit the NNP in an effort to try and prevent it from winning the national poll expected before year-end.
According to Andall, the assertions made by Minister Steele are “very, very reckless and irresponsible,” and that government “has a duty and a solemn responsibility to ensure that our national passport, in particular the diplomatic passport is not compromised by fraudulent dealings”.
The allegations about Grenada’s passport-selling scheme come against the backdrop of the departure of Steve Horsford, the husband of female government minister Yolande Bain-Horsford as the Chief Executive Officer of the CBI programme.
Andall said that senior government ministers have been giving different reasons for the removal of Horsford from the scheme.
He said: “We have heard the Honourable Delma Thomas (Minister of Social Services) put forward as the reason for the (recent) separation of ways between Mr. Steve Horsford and the government, that the government suddenly discovered that there is a conflict of interest”.
Andall contended that “the whole question of conflict of interest has been very, very, clear” to Congress and that “it boggles the mind as to why it took the government so many years to finally recognise there was a conflict of interest.”
He went on: “We then heard Minister (Anthony) Boatswain (Youth & Sports) saying that he had no knowledge of any information dealing with the termination of Mr. Horsford and then Min. Steele again stating that Mr. Horsford’s contract had come to an end and the programme (was) needing new skill sets.
“So, when you have three senior government ministers who are supposed to be (the) custodians of the nation’s business giving different conflicting reports we know that at least one of them is lying,” he said.
Andall alluded to the appointment of the husband of Minister with direct responsibility for the CBI programme, Emmalin Pierre, who is Superintendent of Police (ASP) Tafawa Pierre, the man now holding the top job as Head of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
Pointing to “the lawless manner” in which the county is being governed”, Andall described as “a brazen display of arrogance” the refusal of Prime Minister Mitchell, who is also the CBI line minister to file the necessary reports to Parliament on the sale of passports as required by law.
“The CBI Act, states clearly that the minister responsible for the programme must file a report to the Parliament at least once every six months,” Andall said, adding that only one such report has been submitted to the Lower House since the inception of the programme three years ago.
The Congress Deputy Political Leader stated that seven reports should have been tabled already in the parliament but PM Mitchell has so far submitted just a single report.
“…I am appealing to fellow citizens to ensure that those who we have elected to serve us, serve us and do not act as if they are our masters”, Andall declared.