Making millionaires from the sale of Dominica’s passports
By Richard D. Dringle
June 06, 2015 2:42 P.M
Roseau, Dominica (TDN) Controversy continues to swirl around Dominica’s sale of passport program as revelations came to light recently that a public servant had attempted to transfer EC $ 1.5 million into his business account at a local bank in Roseau. The source of funds was revealed as coming from the sale of passports.
Although the individual has not been publicly named there is speculation that he is intimately involved in running the passport program locally. The Dominica public is now demanding answers as more and more revelations continue to surface about highly irregular activities, which has become a feature of the Dominica Citizenship Program (DCP).
Just last month photos of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and his ministers were published on the internet showing him being wined and dined by members of the My Dominica Trade House , an outfit based in Malaysia.
Interestingly, the My Dominica Trade House is not listed as an official agent engaged in the sale of Dominican passports yet they list Dominica passports for sale on their website. Within hours of the publication of the photos the My Dominica Trade House Website was pulled down. A cleaned up version was restated a few days later.
That company Iranian born CEO is Alireza Monfared who appears in one photo receiving a wedding portrait of the Dominica Prime minister. This has led to further speculation that the prime minister is somehow involved in the operation of that company, or at the very least has intimate knowledge of its operations.
Of even greater interest was the fact that the My Dominica Trade House claims to be running a state of the art hospital in Dominica complete with doctor offices in Marigot and Roseau. However, no such hospital exists and the public has been asking the prime minister to explain his relationship with a company that has lied so blatantly about a nonexistent hospital and why are they allowed to sell Dominican passports.
Head of MDTH Alireza Monfared on the left with Emanuel Nanton head of the Economic Citizenship Program, lawyer Alick Lawrence and Health minister Kenneth Darroux in Malayasia.
Last independence celebration the company hosted a star studded affair in Kuala Lumpur marking our country’s 36 years of Independence. A presentation of US $10 000 was made to Dominica’s foreign affairs minister Francine Baron, who at the time was Dominica's High Commissioner in London. Despite repeated calls from the public for her to explain when and where the funds were transferred to not a word of clarification has been forthcoming from the government side.
Another company not listed in the official list of agents, but which has since 2008 being involved in the sale of passports exclusively to Iranians and other Middle Eastern countries is East West Visa. Com. Their CEO Dr Badi Badiozamani can be seen posing with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit on the website. Again, no official account has been given of why these individuals are allowed to sell passports when they are excluded from the official government listing.
The obvious issue of accountability comes to light particularly in view of the recent announcement that Dominican passports now grant their holders visa free entry into a number of European cities. Of concern is the rising scepter of extremists groups such as ISIS and the possibility that their operatives can easily purchase Dominican passports to gain entry into European countries.
While there is no open invitation for ISIS operatives to buy our passports they must now surely know that the level of anonymity provided is ideal to allow them access to European cities where before this would have been infinitely more difficult.
Another area of accountability has to do with the amount of money that goes back to the Dominican Treasury. On average over the past five years about EC $25 million is reported as having come from passport sales. However, in an interview given to a German newspaper europeanceo.com in 2013 by another agent selling passports, Stephen Isidore who has served as Skerrit’s personal lawyer, he indicated that they projected to sell 2000 passports during 2014. Isidore also revealed that as of end-2013 some 12000 passports have been sold since the program started in 1993.
Clearly, Isidore would have a very good idea of the total scope of operations given his closeness to Skerrit. Based on his estimate of 2000 passports, that would mean revenues into the Treasury of over US $200 million, yet only about 10 percent of that figure is reflected in revenues collected by the Treasury.
Other concerns surround the fact that CS Global whose CEO is Dev Bath receives commission on every passport sold regardless of who sells it. This same company allegedly provided millions of dollars to support the 2014 reelection campaign of Roosevelt Skerrit and his Dominica Labour Party (DLP). Mr. Mohamed Faheem a director of CS Global Partners Ltd, is also Managing Partner at CS Global Partners in Zurich, Switzerland. Intriguingly this company shares an address with our Dominican Consul in Switzerland, Gilbert Torner at 52 Bahnhofstrasse.
The Nestman group which sells passports in the US claim to have already sold over 100 giving them over US $2 million in fees, which they are allowed to keep. This is money that could be used to buy stiches for the hospital or provide some social service in Dominica.
In addition to the Zurich office, CS Global Partners have additional associate offices in: St. Kitts, New Dehli (India), Windhoek (Namibia), Lagos (Nigeria), Beijing (China), Hongkong, and Dubai (United Arab Emirates).
Last month US authorities sentenced Ross Ulbricht to life imprisonment for operating an internet site that provided services including the selling of drugs and guns, and the hiring of hit men to people who paid in bitcoins to protect their identities.
Foreign Affairs minister Francine Baron receives $10 000 check for Dominica charity.
During his court hearing it was revealed that he was in the process of applying for a Dominican passport after visiting the country and being made to feel welcome by those involved in the sale of passports.
When Daniel David Rigmaiden was arrested by US authorities in 2008 for launching a massive tax fraud scheme they also accused him of planning on obtaining a Dominican passport, bribing Dominican officials, and traveling to Dominica in an effort to evade capture.
Under Dominica’s citizenship program, individuals pay US $100 000 for a passport and a family of four US $175 000. There are no limits on the fees that agents spread across the world can charge for their services.
While we can never be certain who has our passports, one thing is very clear. Thousands have been sold, the level of due diligence is negligible, and the millions made to date have not all found its way back to the Dominican Treasury.
So while Dominican passports continue to fuel the excessive lifestyles of sleek newly minted millionaires around the globe a country in desperate need of financial resources continue to sink deeper into despair and poverty. The obvious question becomes how long will the people of Dominica continue to turn a blind eye to this criminal injustice and hold their elected officials accountable.
Prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit with Head of East West Visa Dr Badi Badiozamani.