St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Concern is being expressed about the possible negative impact that the latest diplomatic passport scandal Dominica has found itself embroiled in can have on the OECS countries.
An Iranian man accused of helping to embezzle billions of dollars while the country evaded international oil sanctions has been arrested by Interpol after a lengthy international manhunt.
Alireza Monfared, 43, is accused of involvement in Iran’s biggest-ever corruption scandal, working alongside tycoon Babak Zanjani who was sentenced to death last year for pocketing $2.8 billion while helping the country bypass sanctions.
Monfared, described as a Dominica diplomat, is reported to have had two Dominican passports, a diplomatic one and another obtained earlier through Roseau’s economic citizenship programme.
The head of Iran’s international police department is quoted as having said that Monfared was extradited via Havana and Moscow before arriving in Tehran on Sunday.
He is reported to have been arrested in the Dominican Republic.
Regional broadcaster, Vincentian Jerry George says this latest scandal can hurt not only Dominica but the OECS and CARICOM.
“A Dominican passport is sold, yes, but it affects me, Jerry George in St Vincent on two levels, because firstly, the passport I carry is an OECS document. I am part of the OECS therefore whatever happens in Dominica happens to me, whatever Dominica exposes I am exposed to and secondly it is a CARICOM passport, it is going to affect all of us now or in the future. There are pictures with this man and he is with the Prime Minister of Dominica. According to what is said it seems they are in some kind of business together. Is this really, really, the level to which our Caribbean leadership has come to?”
A statement from the Government of Dominica says Monfared became a Dominican citizen in 2014, and was found to be a respected businessman with substantial business ties in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.
According to the statement, the Iranian demonstrated a great desire to be of assistance in promoting Dominica and sourcing business and investment opportunities on behalf of Dominica in that part of the world.
The government says due diligence investigation was conducted in 2014 in respect of him by an internationally recognized U.S. due diligence firm as required by the relevant regulations.
The statement says too that Monfared’s due diligence report showed no areas of concern in any jurisdiction or country including Iran, and he passed all other security checks.
The Roosevelt Skerrit-led administration says Monfared’s diplomatic passport was recalled and cancelled and all official ties with him were severed effective one year ago on January 20, 2016 upon receiving information that he may be a person of interest to authorities.
The opposition United Workers Party says its leader Lennox Linton has been vindicated, after Linton was harshly criticized for his comments on the CBS Sixty Minutes programme Passports for Sale that a number of fraudsters and people of ill-repute had been made diplomats by the Dominica Labour party administration.