Caribbean Round-Up

Antigua

The Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDP) recently charged a United States female citizen, Khadisha Austin for being in possession of US$9, 500.00 in counterfeit notes.

Investigations revealed that Austin brought the counterfeit money into Antigua and Barbuda.

Officers of the unit executed a search warrant at a Cedar Grove residence and the ONDP claimed it discovered the large sum of counterfeit currency in Austin’s possession.

Austin has been charged under the Money Laundering Prevention Act with possession of counterfeit notes, bringing counterfeit notes into Antigua and Barbuda, and, Under the Forgery Act, possession of counterfeit currency.

Also during the execution of the search warrant, a large quantity of illegal narcotics were discovered on the premises. To date no charges have been made and investigations are continuing.

Bahamas

After it was revealed earlier this month that multiple extradition files in the Bahamas are reportedly missing, Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson sought to reassure the public that the matters are “receiving full attention.”

National Review revealed on May 4, 2015 that the file for a group of men represented by Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez while he was a defense lawyer is among the extradition files that cannot be found.

Two of the men, Austin Knowles and Nathaniel Knowles, are not only Gomez’s former clients, but they are also his constituents.

Gomez said he offered his resignation to Prime Minister Perry Christie on April 24 after he learned the file of his former clients could not be located. He said it was the right thing to do to protect the reputation of the Office of the Attorney General.

However, Gomez said Christie did not accept his resignation. He asked to be transferred to another ministry if his resignation was not accepted but the Prime Minister said he had not made any decision as yet. Gomez’s clients have been on bail for more than a decade.

National Review reported that U.S. Charge Affairs Lisa Johnson recently met with Chief Justice Hartman Longley to express the United States concerns over the fact that there have been no conclusions to these extraditions cases many years after requests were made.

Barbados

Caricom member states will provide US$65,840,931 in new funding for the Caricom Development Fund (CDF) in its second funding cycle, which commences on July 1, 2015.

This was disclosed by Ambassador Lorne McDonnough, CEO of the CDF.

Speaking following the 26th Regular Meeting of the Board of the CDF in Bridgetown, McDonough said this amount will be supplemented by US$10.2 million of carry-over funds, which will bring to the table US$76 million for the second fund cycle.

McDonnough, who led the CDF team negotiated with the Member States Technical Working Group (TWG), made recommendations on the Replenishment of the CDF for the Second Funding Cycle, which was accepted by the Caricom Conference Heads in February.

Trinidad and Tobago, the largest contributor, used the opportunity of the recently concluded 40th Ministerial Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic development (COTED) to confirm its commitment to provide US$40 million to the CDF.

At the meeting, McDonnough thanked CDF member states for their support and noted that the governments of Haiti and Montserrat have also expressed their desire to become members of the CDF in the second funding cycle.

Guyana

The latest effort to find oil and natural gas in the disputed waters off Guyana is showing promise, a representative of Exxon-Mobil said recently.

Exxon-Mobile manager Jeff Simmons said a bore hole in the Atlantic Ocean in an area claimed by Venezuela has produced positive results though he declined to discuss specifics about what was found.

“We have found hydrocarbons but we are still evaluating to see what extent it is in commercial quantities,” Simmons said.

Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud planned to meet with company officials to discuss the find.

Decades of exploration in Guyana have yet to locate available source of oil or gas despite the proximity of energy-rich Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago.

Venezuela has long claimed about two-thirds of Guyana’s territory as well as the offshore area where Exxon-Mobil began drilling in March.

Jamaica

A Jamaican national with 70 pellets of cocaine in his stomach was arrested after he arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport by United States Customs and Border Protection officers.

Customs officers “had a hard time swallowing” Gyan Damain Morgan’s story after he arrived on a flight from Kingston, Jamaica last week.

Customs said during the course of inspection, officers noticed Morgan was “displaying numerous signs of nervousness”.

He was escorted to a room to continue his examination where a personal search resulted in negative results.

During his follow-up interview, Customs officers noted several inconsistencies with Morgan’s story.

He was taken to a medical facility near JFK where he voluntarily admitted he ingested about 70 pellets of narcotics. An X-ray was taken and showed foreign bodies within his stomach cavity.

Morgan was placed under arrest for “the importation of narcotics into the United States” and will soon appear in court after he is discharged from the hospital.

St. Kitts

St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Timothy Harris’ government intends to implement “more stringent” measures to deal with persons who are found guilty of serious crimes after having obtained citizenship through the country’s Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP).

“We are going to make some significant changes that should lead to improved efficiency [and] to amend our regulation and legislation to allow for the revocation of the passports of those who would have brought our country into disrepute and things like that,” he said

Harris was speaking to reporters recently following a high level round table discussion on the “Forum on the Future of the Caribbean” at Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain.

Controversy has surrounded the CIP in recent years, with Canada removing the country from visa-free travel lost in 2014 because of concerns that “unwelcome characters” could be entering Canada using a passport issued under St. Kitts CIP.

This prompted the country to recall all economic passports issued between January 2012 and July 2014, because they did not include place -of-birth information, or any details of name.

Omitting the place of birth helped to hide the origin of the passport-holder, which was a security concern for Canada and the United States.

In 2013, there were two ways to obtain a passport under the CPO- US$250,000 if the applicant made a donation to the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation for US$400,000, or the person chose to invest in property.

St. Lucia

The St. Lucia government is planning to privatize its Hewanorra International Airport. The country announced recently that a bill would be laid in Parliament to allow the airport to be run by an “independent entity” on the basis of competitive bidding.

“The Saint Lucia government has plans to improve operations at the Hewanorra International Airport through a public-private partnership,” the government said in a release.

According to St.Lucia’s Governor General Dame Peralette Louisy, the aim is to “ensure that redevelopment of the airport does not come at an unmanageable cost to the state.”

“Government is being assisted by the International Finance Corporation, an entity owned by the World Bank, in developing this framework,” Louisy said.

The proposed public-private partnership would “redefine the role of the Saint Lucia Air and Sea Ports Authority,” she added.

“This will offer a greater level of service to the traveling public, and provide an international gateway that all St. Lucians may be proud of,” Louisy said.

Trinidad

The opposition People National Movement (PNM) Members of the House of Representatives have kept their promise to stay away from the House of Representatives to protest the suspension of opposition leader Dr. Keith Rowley until June 17 when Parliament will dissolve to make way for the upcoming general election.

Dr. Rowley was suspended from the House recently over his alleged e-mailgate presentation in the House of Representatives in May 2013.

The e-mails alleged that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and senior members of her Cabinet were involved in a multi-pronged “conspiracy” to “harm” a reporter and bug the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Despite criticisms over Dr. Rowley’s suspension, the Prime Minister is standing firm that the e-mails were fake and she had to deal with the issue before Parliament is dissolved.

She has produced a letter from an American Law firm specializing in internet and computer law, who was hired to investigated the scandal, said the e-mails read in the House by Dr. Rowley was no match between the Google-provided e-mails between Persad-Bissessar and former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan.

The Police and the Integrity Commission are yet to conclude their investigations into the e-mailgate scandal.

Turks and Caicos

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says the financial system in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) is “gradually recovering” from the 2008 economic crisis.

Following the recent IMF mission to conduct a financial stability assessment under the IMF’s Financial Assessment Program (FSAP), the Washington-based financial institutions said banks continue to show “high levels of non-performing loan (NPL) ratios and credit growth remains negative.”

“But high levels of capital buffers should help them withstand a range of adverse shocks,” the IMF said.

“While the economy is recovering, the [Financial Services Commission] should remain vigilant and monitor asset quality and liquidity conditions and ensure the capital buffers remain.

“The domestic insurance sector is small and does not appear to pose systematic risks,” said the IMF report which was recently released.

— compiled by Azad Ali

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