Dominica’s wealthy ambassadors
By Thomson Fontaine
November 20, 2011 1:00 a.m.
Roseau, Dominica (TDN) —- The recent attempted arrest of Francesco Corallo of Italy, owner of Atlantic World Group of casinos who claimed to be Dominica’s permanent representative to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has led to me taking a closer look at the practice of appointing non Dominican’s to serve as the country’s ambassadors.
On May 27, 2008, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Jinzhang met with Ambassador of the Commonwealth of Dominica to China David King Hsiu and accepted a donation of 100, 000 U.S. dollars made by David King Hsiu in his own name to the Wenchuan earthquake area.
This practice appears to be unique to Dominica and is done under the guise of a hugely discredited economic citizenship program. Some common features of the government appointed ambassadors are that they all appear to be wealthy none Dominicans, pay huge sums for the privilege of a diplomatic passport, usually have checkered business backgrounds, set up offshore banks or businesses in Dominica, sold Dominican passports, and appear to violate the norms of international best diplomatic practices.
While the government steadfastly refuses to give any information on the number or place of assignment of the ambassadors, our exhaustive investigation reveals that as many as 46 diplomatic passports may have been given out by the Skerrit government.
This article focuses on twelve that we have painstakingly discovered from fragments of newspaper articles and other information from within the government apparatus.
Roman Laschin, Rudolph King, František Savov, Bobby Wahi, Eric Torner, Didier Vidal, Francesco Corollo, David Hsiu, Bobby Jones, Leroy Paris, and Susan Oldie were all designated goodwill ambassadors before been conveyed with substantive posts.
Of the above mentioned, Roman Laschin, František Savov and Francesco Corollo were all rejected by the designated countries. Two in the group František Savov and Bobby Wahi made news headlines after their names were linked to expensive takeover bids. Savov was linked to a bogus bid to take over the biggest Czech publishing house and Wahi’s offshore bank was associated with Geoff Sheard who in 2008 made an equally bogus bid for Sheffield Wednesday a British football club.
Sheard used a fake letter from Wahi’s offshore bank in his bid claiming that 100 million euros was available for investment. His claim was soon discredited once it was found out that the bank was not operational and had no account holders and no money.
King who is Bahamian and claimed to have a PhD in economics from Cambridge University was jailed in the United States, Laschin was arrested in Switzerland, and Paris was at the center of the CLICO debacle, which jeopardized the holdings of thousands of policy holders in the Caribbean. The only one ambassador to be fired was David Hsiu, ambassador to China after he turned on prime minister Skerrit where he described the giving of bribes and other favors to Cabinet ministers.
Ambassador Torner and Prince Albert II of Monaco.
František Savov a Czech millionaire who is linked to the loss of CZK 0.5 billion in the Czech Consolidation Agency was proposed as Dominica's ambassador to Slovakia after obtaining a diplomatic passport and becoming an economic citizen. The Slovaks, given their history with the Czechs, did not even bother to reply to the perceived insult in the letter from the Dominica ministry of foreign affairs.
Savov the ambassador designate would go on to set up an offshore company in Dominica called the European Investment Trust (EIT) with Alick Lawrence as president. In 2008, its subsidiary Mladá fronta made a multi-million dollar bid for one of the biggest publishing houses in the Czech Republic, outbidding Czech's richest billionaire.
The offer soon fell through however when a former employee of Mladá fronta told the Czech press that this bid was all a fraud and "it was based on tricks and shenanigans. Nobody knows who this company actually is."
Alick Lawrence was also quoted in the Czech press as saying that he "could not comment on the ownership structure of EIT.”
Eric Torner who was designated as Dominica’s ambassador to UNESCO mysteriously showed up in Monaco in 2009 with Didier Vidal, Minister Advisor, and Deputy Permanent Delegate for Dominica with UNESCO to present his credentials to the Sovereign Prince Albert II. Dominica thus became only the 63rd country accredited with the Principality. Dominicans were never made aware of this development.
Interestingly, a certain Gilbert Torner whom we suspect may be the brother or indeed the same person set up an offshore company in Dominica called Strategic Wealth Management (SWM). Of even greater interest is the fact that both the Dominica consulate in Switzerland from which Torner operates and SWM share the same address in Zurich, Switzerland.
Laschin is reported to have sold at least three hundred passports to wealthy Russian patrons. Oldie gave up $400 000 for her passport and unconfirmed reports indicate that Corollo was paying a monthly ‘rental’ of $25 000 for his. In one case in May 2008, Hsiu gave the entire proceeds of the sale of one passport of $100 000 over to victims of the Wenchuan earthquake in China. Needless to say, the Dominican Treasury has seen little or none of the huge sums of money generated either through the sale of the diplomatic passports or from that made by the holders of the passports.
While all this high stakes drama is being played out, the Dominican people continue to demand accountability and an explanation from the prime minister for the amount of money paid for those passports. Many continue to wonder aloud why these appointments are being kept secret and made in clear violation of international best diplomatic practice where persons with significant business interest in a given country cannot be made ambassadors.
One thing is certain and that is Dominica has succeeded in making itself the laughing stock of the international community when it comes to the dubious way in which the country’s sovereignty is so mindlessly been sacrificed at the feet of a few wealthy misfits and some of ill repute.