Who are the holders of Dominica's diplomatic passports?
Here is a list of 24 names provided to The Sun by a foreign affairs expert of non-Dominicans who may have received diplomatic passports under Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit's regime
Some of the names are as disturbing as they are questionable. Vladimir Antonov, Rudolph King, Roman Lakschin, Diezani Allison-Madueke, Ng Lap Seng. These are among a list of 24 names provided to The Sun by a foreign affairs expert of non-Dominicans who have received diplomatic passports under Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit's regime.
It is not entirely clear whether it is a complete list or how many are under suspicion. However, there is no doubt some are of dubious character.
Rudolph King, for example, who was appointed as ambassador to Bahrain, was jailed in the United States for filing a false claim with the American Internal Revenue Service.
Vladimir Antonov, a Russian whose personal wealth was estimated at over EC$800 million and who was appointed as a special envoy, is a fugitive on the run after a court in Britain ruled to have him extradited to Lithuania to face fraud charges. Diezani Alison-Madueke, the former Nigerian minister who was appointed as ambassador and commissioner for trade and investment, was arrested in Britain on suspicions of bribery and money laundering, while Ng Lap Seng, a billionaire from Macau who was appointed as ambassador at large, has been accused of a litany of unsavoury deeds, and has been held in the US on bribery charges.
"This gets very disturbing," perennial government critic Athie Martin told The Sun.
The list could not be verified by the ministry of foreign affairs since, at the last sitting of parliament, the minister of foreign affairs Francine Baron declined an opposition request to name foreigners who are holders of Dominican diplomatic passports. She contended it would not be in the interest of the country's foreign relations.
"This is in stark contraction to the recent statement by the prime minister that his government was the most transparent in the Caribbean," Martin said of the refusal. "That makes it more worrying."
The expert who provided The Sun with the list felt insulted by Baron's stand.
"It is totally disrespectful of the Dominican people. The foreign minister lost all her credibility by echoing Skeritt's approach of conducting foreign relations in secret," the official, who spoke to The Sun on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive position he holds, said.
"They are able to do this because Dominica does not have a Foreign Relations Act." Such an Act, the source said, would require parliament to approve all diplomatic appointees, and the absence of the Act allows government to abuse the appointment of diplomatic representatives.
"It is indeed a travesty that the Dominican people do not even know who represents them abroad. Furthermore, the government feels no obligation whatsoever to inform parliament of the numerous persons they have provided with passports. And, they have appointed many foreigners of questionable character to diplomatic representation roles and also issued them and others not in representational roles with diplomatic passports."
To Martin, the refusal to provide the information invites speculation. Maybe there is something to hide, he said, or the Citizenship by Investment Programme might not be doing well and there has been a change of focus to the sale of diplomatic passports.
The other diplomatic passport holders include Susan Oldie and Christopher Thomson of the Cayman Islands; Eric Torner; Roman Lakschin in favour of whom Dominica filed at case against Switzerland at the International Court of Justice in 2006 to restore his diplomatic credentials in Switzerland; Serge de Thibault de Boesinghe; Bobby Wahi; Timothy Cornwall of the UK as special envoy to Qatar and Iran; Leroy Parris, the Barbadian at the head of the failed CLICO Insurance and who is fighting a court battle to have an EC$6 million accounting unfrozen; Francesco Corallo; Bobby Jones; David Shiu; Frantisek Savov; Didier Vidal; Claude Skalawski; Graeme Christopher Thomson; Jonathan Brown; Alireza Zibahalat Monfared; Rebecca Chang, the daughter of Grace Tung; Paolli Zampoli and Christos Vardkos.