By: Anthony W Astaphan, SC
21st February 2017
Today’s headlines in the Sun Newspaper “UWP: UNFULFILLED PROMISES OF DIPLOMATIC PASSPORTS” was most revealing. This headline comes in the midst of the Lennox Linton and the United Workers Party (UWP) repeated allegations that the Roosevelt Skerrit administration is selling diplomatic passports to fund the party’s campaign. They have further alleged that the Skerrit administration had sold these passports to “crooks and criminals” and have called for the Prime Minister and his ministers to resign from office. In fact, Edison C James and the UWP’s leader, Lennox Linton, have on numerous occasions, called on the Prime Minister to “come clean.” As the smear continued, Gabriel Christian, Kenneth Rijock and Gregory R Copley joined the chorus.
There is no question that the Linton, Fontaine, Gabriel, Rijock and Copley allegations are false, and not based on any historical or current fact. What however the Sun disclosed is that Mr. Linton and the UWP appear to be accusing (without fact) the government of the very thing Mr James and his UWP was deeply involved in 2004/5 and very likely subsequent years.
I read The Sun’s story with considerable interest. Some of the background facts were not as forcefully put as they should have been. In 2004 Mr. Edison C James and UWP realized they were unable to locally raise funding for the 2005 general election. Consequently, after making a number of phone calls Edison James, then Leader of the Opposition and others flew by jet to Zurich, Switzerland, to discuss and secure funding for the upcoming election. Zurich was a most interesting location. Edison’s meetings were arranged by ‘friends’ in Zurich. Edison C James stayed at the Hotel Helmhaus. There Mr. James met with a number of foreign nationals with high net worth. Every one of those foreign nationals requested and required diplomatic passports and postings in exchange for funding. Edison C James agreed. As a direct result, Mr. James was able to secure the campaign financing from six of the persons he met in Zurich. One of these persons was Howell Woltz, an American who was later convicted and spent 86 months in federal prison for financial fraud. In its Preliminary Statement in DOCKET NO. 3:06CR74-Britt filed by the US Government in seeking to revoke Howell Wiltz’s bail order the FBI agent who conducted the sting operation said
‘Finally, Defendants have an unusual ability to maneuver overseas. The entire family has Trinidadian passports (although no passport is necessary to get into the Bahamas), and Defendant bragged to the undercover, “I will be issued a diplomatic passport for the nation of Dominica . . . and cannot be inspected . . . so that will be comforting, because I get a little nervous when people send papers to the U.S.” Defendant Howell Woltz has traveled at least once to the government’s knowledge with co-conspirators on a private jet, and was in discussions to buy his own private jet in January 2004.’
It is clear that Mr Woltz informed the undercover FBI agent he will be issued a diplomatic passport for the Island of Dominica. Roosevelt Skerrit has never met and does not know Howell Woltz. In other words, Woltz admitted to the FBI Agent that Edison C James who met him in Zurich had promised a Dominican diplomatic passport (once he and the UWP won the 2005 election) in exchange for the campaign contribution from Woltz, and that he intended to use that passport to avoid detection by Customs authorities etc. As a direct result of the promise from Edison James, Woltz paid and transferred US$300,000 to Dominica for the 2005 campaign of the United Workers Party.
There are documents, which support and confirm the meetings and result of the meetings. Transfer records disclose that the campaign contributions negotiated by Edison James ranged from one hundred and fifty thousand (USD$150,000) to three hundred thousand dollars (USD$300,000) from six persons. This amounts to millions of dollars ($EC) which were telex transferred to Dominica, and subsequently distributed to Edison C James (in cash) and companies in Dominica, owned and controlled by executive members of the UWP. Records were kept of the transfers and disbursements.
The information and records disclose the following:
• Cash payments to Edison C James
• 5th January 2005 Cheque # 1573 to XX company for EC$290, 000
• 5th January 2005, cheque # 1574 to Nicks Apartments for EC$98, 000
• 12th January 2005, cheque # 1585 to XX company for EC$510, 000
• 3rd February 2005, cheque # 1619 written to Nicks Trading for EC$95, 000.00
• 3rd February 2005, cheque # 1620 to XX company for EC$385, 000
• 24th February 2015 cheque # 1731 to XX company for EC$500, 000
• 14th March 2005 cheque # 1822 to XX company for EC$335, 000
• 8th April 2005, cheque # 1882 to company for EC$500, 000
• 8th April 2005, cheque #1888 written to Carib Intercontinental Limited for $50, 000
• 17th April 2005, cheque #1914 written to Carib Intercontinental Limited for $100, 000
• 19th April, cheque #1919 to XX company for $90, 000
• 23rd April, cheque #1937 to XX company for $400, 000
• 26th April, cheque # 1939 written to Carib Intercontinental Limited for $150, 000
These are indisputable facts. These events and facts ought not to be considered in isolation. Mr Lennox Linton has had, and continues to have, a very close personal and political relationship with Mr James. Dr Denzil Douglas has told us that Edison James was negotiating with Henley & Partners when he lost the 2000 election. Dr. Douglas also told us that Edison James travelled to St Kitts to sell his Government a citizenship program on behalf of Henley & Partners, namely the Sugar Diversification Investment Fund (SDIF) in St. Kitts. The SDIF is an integral part of the Citizenship by Investment Program in St.Kitts; a program at one time managed under an exclusive contract by Henley & Partners. We also know Lennox Linton travelled several times to St Kitts with Edison James. We also know that subsequently to the Government of St Kitts’ agreement to establish the SDIF, a sum of over $500,000.00 ECD was deposited in a Scotia Bank accounts in St Kitts & Nevis. In 2005 many of us believed it was funds from Taiwan but it was not. It was consideration for the sale and establishment of the SDIF. It must be recalled that when questioned on his several trips to St Kitts, Lennox Linton said he had to travel to earn a living as no one in Dominica wanted to employ him. This is an admission by Linton that he went to work and earn money in St Kitts.
Further, Mr Linton was on the frontline of the UWP’s campaign in 2005. Being “the blue investigative journalist’ of local rum ship note, it would be extraordinary indeed if Linton did not ask Edison, or ascertain the reason for the Edison trips to Switzerland, or the source of the UWP’s 2005 campaign funding.
Linton was also an integral part of the UWP 2009 campaign managed by Strategic Communications Limited (SCL). SCL’s invoice was 1.5 Million USD. Linton must have seen all the SCL European men on the ground, and if he did, he must have asked who was going to pay SCL. Surely, this is the very least ‘an investigative journalist’ would have done. But who paid?
Linton is now the Political Leader of the United Workers Party, handpicked and anointed by Mr James. In his anointment of Lennox Linton, Edison James said on public radio that Linton was skilled in raising funds. What exactly did Edison James mean? Was Mr. James referring to the ‘skill ‘that he had utilized in Zurich, Switzerland? Or was Edison referring to his friends, connections or relationships in Switzerland and others, who helped him in 2005 and subsequent years? I do not know. However, I do know Linton was recommended to CBS 60 Minutes by someone who appeared on the 60 Minutes program with him. Speaking for myself, I would never recommend anyone to speak anywhere unless I first spoke with him or had some idea what he was going to say, or would say.
I am more interested in the hypocrisy exposed by The Sun, and the really evasive answers Edison James gave to the Sun correspondent. The hypocrisy has a deeply offensive stench as to date no one amidst the mudslinging and smears has produced any evidence to substantiate the allegations against Prime Minister Skerrit. On the other hand, there are persons alive, and records which exist, that point to and establish the meetings in Zürich, and transfers of the funds to Edison C James and the United Workers Party for the 2005 campaign. Edison C James knows this for a fact. This is precisely why he did not, and cannot, deny the allegations when asked byTthe Sun. Instead, he tries to pivot and blame Roosevelt Skerrit for raising the issue. But Prime Minister Skerrit was not raising the issue, it was a correspondent for the Sun Newspaper. This quid pro quo for diplomatic passports and postings which took place in 2005 and very likely in 2009 has been discussed on radio previously. Edison James heard what was said or it was brought to his attention. Nevertheless, not a word from him. The result? Edison James, Linton and the United Workers Party have opened a can of worms as the only objective evidence points to them, and not Roosevelt Skerrit nor the Dominica Labour Party. In all of the facts and circumstances, the inevitable inference or conclusion is that Edison James and the UWP have cemeteries in their closets. They appear to be the ones who offered and sold diplomatic passports and postings to a number of persons, inclusive of Howell Woltz, in exchange for campaign funding. This hypocrisy is mind bending. As a late friend of mine would have said “what a time and what a ting!”