The government of Grenada has denied knowledge of the sale of diplomatic passport sales – despite one senior minister receiving and replying to emails that refer to the practice at the end of 2016.
A source has told WIC News that they are “dismayed” that the prime minister of Grenada, Keith Mitchell, has made no comment other than to label everything as false, despite the fact that the emails do exist.
A week ago reports emerged that a European businessman attempted to buy a diplomatic passport from either Grenada or Antigua and Barbuda. After he failed to receive the document he made personal inquiries to the countries in order to get his money refunded.
The story appeared on a little-known blog that purports to cover financial crime.
However, WIC News was already investigating this story after being passed a screenshot that appears to show a US$1 million money transfer.
Copies of emails from the buyer’s side to Alexandra Otway-Noel, MP for St George South, were also given. In the thread, a refund is sought as no passport was delivered, with confirmation during the later emails that money had been returned to the buyer.
Otway-Noel was the minister responsible for the citizenship by investment programme before she resigned in January.
Although WIC News is unable to independently verifying the validity of the money transfer image, in June 2017 one of our reporters met with Otway-Noel and approached her about the communication – which the MP was able to find on her phone’s email application.
In her response to the diplomatic passport buyer, she said she would look into the matter. She didn’t mention that you cannot buy diplomatic passport – although she did make their unavailability very clear to our reporter.
“We don’t do business like that here. One thing you can be sure of: My prime minister is in his golden years of politics, and fully intends to leave a golden legacy. We would never sell ourselves for a million dollars to some fella.”
This isn’t the first time the issue of Grenada selling diplomatic passports has reached the public.
A 2006 diplomatic cable shared by Wikileaks demonstrates a number of occasions the United States doubts the legitimacy of Grenada’s diplomats. One section of the cable is titled “How Much Does it Cost to be a Grenadian Diplomat?”.
String of denials
There is no evidence of wrongdoing on Otway-Noel’s part, and her email responses only indicate that she received the message and would look into the matter.
“From time to time some weirdo will write, and I don’t know what his story is here, but what I do is I forward it to the board.”
When asked if this matter was the reason for her resignation, she said no. Despite reports circulating about a feud with the prime minister – Otway-Noel has not been selected as a candidate for the upcoming election – she stated that she stepped down due to the bureaucracy associated with working in government.
As news spread over the the last seven days there has been a string of denials from the two caribbean nations as well as the head of Grenada’s citizenship by investment programme, as well as a robust statement threatening legal action from the ‘citizenship planning’ firm.
WIC News knows the identity of the alleged buyer but has not named him. He is based in Ukraine.
Members of the government have been tightlipped over the matter, including Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, leading to criticism that they aren’t being honest.
According to reports, the situation first reached governmental circles in the Caribbean in October 2016 when Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, was emailed to ask about the sale of a diplomatic passport.
Browne was quick to fire back and said his administration would never sell diplomatic passports – later emails show that the person who reached out now sought to recover the money from Grenada.
WIC News has contacted the office of Prime Minister Keith Mitchell for comment but there has been no reply.
One source in Grenada, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the fact that emails reached Grenada’s government but nothing was done is concerning.
“It’s ludicrous to think that they can brush this under the table, so to speak. If there was any indication whatsoever that something was wrong, even if they believed that this was ‘fake’ or something like that, it should have been investigated,” they said.
“At best it’s poor management for the passport programme by whoever introduced this man from Europe to Grenada. At worst it is someone getting $1,000,000 in their pocket (their back pocket) and a new diplomat for Grenada.”