Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Dishonourable Roosevelt Skerrit

We read with amusement a recent commentary by Anthony Astaphan in the online news site Caribbean News Now. Mr. Astaphan, in an attempt to protect his paymaster Roosevelt Skerrit, launched into an attack at any and all he could identify as enemies of Mr. Skerrit. It's interesting he chose to do that in Caribbean News Now, a news site he's on record of describing as untrustworthy, a tool of the opposition UWP, a disgusting news organization, among other colourful names. We're going to spare you quotes from his rant; that would be peddling filth. We're just going to say that Tony is earning is pay.

Roosevelt Skerrit at St Joseph rally, Feb. 2

Mr. Skerrit is under enormous pressure; it may be the most pressure that he's ever been under since becoming prime minister. What makes this different is that Mr. Skerrit, Tony, and their support structure are unable to control it as they have been able to do historically in Dominica. And the reason is simple; the pressure is coming from the outside.

In the past several months Mr. Skerrit has been exposed as the proverbial "Emperor with no clothes". Independent news organizations as well as this blog has exposed Mr. Skerrit for what he is; an unapologetic liar and a corrupt government official. Mr. Skerrit has been able to escape scrutiny for several years, but no more. Lately Till Bruckner, a highly-accomplished journalist who writes for the Huffington Post and Foreign Policy Magazine, has gotten under Mr. Skerrit's skin. Mr. Bruckner is looking at citizenship by investment programs as well as similar operations globally, and he's taking a look at the system in Dominica. Mr. Bruckner's interview with UWP leader Lennox Linton appears to have prompted him to call a public meeting in St. Joseph on February 2nd. It was at that meeting Mr. Skerrit launched into what can only be described as a maniacal assault on his citizens.

Mr. Skerrit's public meeting can be summed up in two words; Lennox Linton. It appears to us that anything remotely associated with Mr. Linton is by default, an enemy of Mr. Skerrit. In interviewing Mr. Linton, Mr. Bruckner inadvertently became Mr. Skerrit's enemy, and he made it known at the podium by declaring Mr. Bruckner as a "foreign journalistic terrorist". These are pretty strong words. Mr. Skerrit went on to erroneously identify where Mr. Bruckner was staying, saying that he was camped out at the residence of a UWP senator. He then proceeded to instruct his supporters to confront Mr. Bruckner and all individuals who they believe are not supporters of the ruling Labour Party wherever they are, on planes, on the streets, at funerals, and shout at them "traitor". This can only lead to violence, with flashbacks of Rwanda in our minds. Mr. Skerrit has some strident supporters, individuals who would do anything for him; what if one of those supporters takes it upon themselves to exact vengeance on behalf of Mr. Skerrit? What then? This man has lost it. If there was ever a time Mr. Skerrit has demonstrated that he is unfit for public office, this was it. But he continues to enjoy the support of low-information citizens, the church and the bourgeoisie, all of who's pockets he has lined with state money. This will someday come to an end and they will have to answer.

Things began to unravel rather quickly after the passage of Tropical Storm Erika; all the "friends" Mr. Skerrit boasted of previously that were at his disposal were suddenly no where to be found. Do you remember during the election campaign he boasted of having secured money from friendly governments to pay government employees? We knew it was a lie then, TS Erika exposed the lie for all Labourites to see. Think about it; if you could really get friendly governments to pay employees, why wouldn't these same governments give you money or soft loans in order to rebuilt after a catastrophic storm? The answer is; there never were "friendly" governments dispensing cash to pay salaries. Mr. Skerrit lied. Face it; he's an unapologetic liar. What else can you call a man who, one month after the storm hit, and with very few damaged homes having been fully reconstructed, declared in an interview while on a tour of Asia that his government has already rebuilt 574 homes? China, our so-called close friend, the second largest economy in the world, donated way less than a million US dollars, when they know estimates are that we need half a billion US dollars. What does that tell you? Mr. Skerrit's appointment of Baroness Scotland as "International Relief Coordinator" has not reaped any tangible results; we'd like to know whether she was paid for that no-show no-performance job. The Baroness has yet to report on this to the Dominican public and she may be able to enjoy a shield while in Dominica, but when she assumes the mantle as Commonwealth Secretary General, she will face the international press; we will do what we need to do to expose her incompetence.

Soon after TS Erika, the saga of Ng Lap Seng sprouted. You will recall Mr. Skerrit was with Mr. Ng in Macau at the time TS Erika struck Dominica, a fact that he failed to disclose, until reports and photographs began to filter out; who can forget the famous picture of Mr. Skerrit and Mr. Ng cutting a cake together with accused UN Bribery conspirators John Ashe and Francis Lorenzo. That investigation is continuing and we have some further information below.

Not too long after the arrest of Mr. Ng in New York, another scandal broke with reports from London and Nigeria shining light on a diplomatic passport and job issued to accused former Nigerian Petroleum Resources minister Diezani Alison-Madueke. Mr. Skerrit again was embroiled in another corruption investigation, and every time one appears, Tony Astaphan is there to attempt a cover up. Tony, it's not working anymore; find another job because you fail at this one. 

The new year brought revelations from this blog of numerous shell companies in England that were owned and managed by the mother of Mr. Skerrit's first child, Ms. Yvette Laurent, as well as Ms. Andra Augustine, a secretary in the offices of his personal lawyer Alick Lawrence. Through their hands have flowed tens of millions of dollars. When the revelations broke, Tony Astaphan did a rather unusual thing; less than 24 hours after publication, Tony was on Kairi FM with a special program to discuss what was not yet widely circulated. In his attempt to divert people's attention from the revelations, Tony instead drove additional people to the reports, thereby giving it wider distribution. Tony, let's talk. First of all, I want to Thank You; you do great advertising, but you suck as a lawyer. In fact, you're Roosevelt Skerrit's worse enemy, and Mr. Skerrit will do himself a great amount of good by kicking you out of his office. Your advice has done more harm than good to Mr. Skerrit.

Take for example your advice to Mr.Skerrit to fight back against the revelations from this blog. On one hand you're not disputing the validity of the information we provided, yet you advise the prime minister to fight against them. How do you fight the truth and expect to win? You can't. What you will end up doing is saying things that make no sense and do not square with the truth, How do you declare something to be truthful and simultaneously say that the truth is a lie? And Mr. Skerrit, without thinking rationally, takes your advice too! That makes him a fool. You should have advised Mr. Skerrit to lay low and hope the buzz around the story goes away; instead, you exacerbated the situation for him. Now he's ended up at a podium threatening his citizens and encouraging strife among them, things that he can be prosecuted for in the future, while you, Tony, sit in your well-appointed home in Florida. Mr. Skerrit is a Fool, with a capital F.

Your second attempt to deflect from the story we exposed on January 1st is this entire Kieron Pinard-Byrne fiasco. Tony, it failed. KPB's attempt at assisting you in shielding Mr. Skerrit not only did not shield Mr. Skerrit but it has turned KPB into the second most-hated person in Dominica, after you. That is quite an accomplishment. Scorn will forever be heaped upon KPB; it's inescapable.

Now we come to your third attempt to protect your paymaster. This one will fail too, and you know it.

It's important that I pause here to inform our readers that a hammer is about to be dropped on Mr. Skerrit's clandestine operations. In the interest of protecting the integrity of the report, I am not going to tell you just yet what it's about, suffice it to say that it involves Mr. Skerrit's diplomatic passport selling business. You the reader, if you're following this blog closely, knows that we only divulge the truth; we have proven that over the short life of the blog. If we tell you that we are aware of something, you can rest assured that it's a fact, and our sources are legitimate.

Mr. Skerrit's operations are about to come under added scrutiny. Tony Astaphan is aware of it, which we believe is the driving force behind his commentary in Caribbean News Now. This commentary appears to be his idea of a preemptive strike at deflating potentially unflattering revelations that will be coming out in the near future. Tony also knows that there is nothing he can do about it, nor can Mr. Skerrit. There is also nothing he can do about any revelations emanating from the upcoming federal trial of Ng Lap Seng. And this is where our investigations come in.

We have secured a deposition from the case against Mr. Ng in Manhattan Federal Court. This hearing was to discuss whether bail should be granted to Mr. Ng. The US Attorney laid a very strong case against granting Mr. Ng bail for fear of flight. Mr. Ng is known to have several airplanes at his disposal. Mr. Ng is also in possession of a diplomatic passport from Dominica, a fact that was revealed in the hearing.

In making the argument that Mr. Ng not be granted bail due to the extreme risk of flight, Assistant US Attorney Daniel Richenthal, responding to a request from the judge to explain a statement he previously made regarding "the proven fact that he (Mr. Ng) has purchased citizenship from a foreign country" declared to the court; "So various countries, some lawfully,some not lawfully, have programs in which wealthy individuals can essentially purchase citizenship.  Mr. Ng availed himself to that with respect to the country of Dominica.  Mr. Ng was in the process of exploring that with the country of Antigua and Barbuda. Mr. Ng also has connections to the Dominican Republic, and Mr. Ng has a passport of Portugal. Specifically with respect to purchasing citizenship, there are countries that permit that, either legally or under the table, and Mr. Ng availed himself of those programs in the past."

US Attorney Richenthal's submissions at deposition

Following another question from the judge relating to whether the money paid for citizenship was connected to a storm that occurred in Dominica, Mr. Richenthal dispelled the notion of the use of money in connection to a storm by stating; "I don't have a ledger of how the money was used, but we can tell your Honor that the evidence indicates that it was a business transaction.  Mr. Ng was engaged in what Mr. Ng is engaged in, which is real estate transactions and gambling transactions.  At the hearing before Judge Fox, Mr. Ng painted himself as a philanthropist.  That's not what the payments to Dominica were about.  There may have been other payments.  We don't have his bank records. One thing I wanted to comment on apropos of that, there's a reason we don't have them -- it's because they're in China."

US Attorney Richenthal's submission at deposition

This is a stunning revelation from the prosecutors. It suggests that the Federal government is aware of what the true purpose of the purchase of his citizenship from Dominica was about. Let us examine some of these statements.

"I don't have a ledger of how the money was used, but we can tell your Honor that the evidence indicates that it was a business transaction" Translation: We don't know how the money was spent, we do not have the government of Dominica's financial ledger, but we can say that the evidence we have clearly indicates that he paid for it.

"At the hearing before Judge Fox, Mr. Ng painted himself as a philanthropist.  That's not what the payments to Dominica were about." Translation: Mr. Ng tried to give the impression that he was a person who gives out money, That is not what the money sent to Dominica was about. He wasn't giving out money. It was for another purpose.

"There may have been other payments.  We don't have his bank records. One thing I wanted to comment on apropos of that, there's a reason we don't have them -- it's because they're in China." Translation: The possibility exists that more money was sent to Dominica but we do not have his bank records to show you, and the reason we don't have them is that they're in China.

This entire exchange suggests that the prosecutors have all the information relating to money sent by Mr. Ng to Dominica that has passed through the US banking system, but in instances where US banks may not have been used, they do not have that information, since it's in China.

It also suggests that the prosecutors are aware that the money was not for any storm damage assistance but for real estate transactions, and from that we can deduce that may be a reference to the Layou River Hotel project. We can make that connection because Mr Ng's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, in an attempt to dismiss the prosecution charges relating to the Dominica citizenship, said this:

One last comment just so we take the mystery out of this buying a passport.  He didn't buy a passport, A.  B, the passport is expired, so it's worthless.  Second, it's not the Dominican Republic.  It's the island of Dominica.  And it was given to him and I understand 2,000 other people as an honorary award, if you will, or as a medal or as you give a certain amount of money to the Olympics.  They didn't give him money. What he agreed to do, and I stand corrected, is he agreed to build a $20 million development project in the island of Dominica because it was a storm ravaged area and he was being courted to build there because of his reputation for building in ravaged areas and his ability to bring large construction crews.  And in order to incentivize him and thank him -- it's not a bribe.  It's like getting a plaque."

Ng Lap Seng's lead attorney Ben Brafman's submission at deposition

Let us examine this.

Mr. Brafman is declaring in Manhattan Federal Court that Mr. Ng, along with 2,000 other people were given Dominican passports. Benjamin Brafman is a highly-skilled, highly-experienced, highly-sought lawyer. Mr. Brafman, I doubt very much, would be making a blanket statement like this in court without having gotten this information somewhere and believing it. He is not a man inclined to ruin his outstanding reputation. So who are those other 2,000 passport holders?

Mr. Brafman is also declaring in court that Mr. Ng's passport is expired, which means that it cannot be related to TS Erika, which was 2 months before this deposition, so the passport would have to be at least five years old, back to when we had the Layou River Hotel in the news. Which brings us to his other declaration; that Mr. Ng had gotten the passport as part of an agreement to build a US $20 million project on island. Six years earlier, Roosevelt Skerrit testified in the East Caribbean Appeals Court in the British Virgin Islands that he was on his way to Macau to visit Mr. Wu, also known as Ng Lap Seng, ostensibly to "borrow" US $20 million in order to pay off Felix Chen, who was swindled out of his investment in the Layou River Hotel project, the same project Kieron Pinard-Byrne collected huge fees playing both sides of the fence, in an obvious conflict of interest case. 

So we have Mr. Skerrit going to borrow US $20 million from Mr. Ng, and Mr. Ng's lawyer saying that Mr. Ng. was going to invest US $20 million in a development project in a storm ravaged area of Dominica, and the US Attorney saying that  money changed hands, and after all this, we still do not have the Layou River Hotel. Let us digest that a minute.

Now, are we going to see references to the Layou River Hotel project show up in Manhattan Federal Court when the case goes to trial? I do not know, but I'm waiting. I am keeping an eye on the court's calendar and I intend to be in New York when that trial begins, so that I can report to you. 

In conclusion, we encourage you to keep checking back here for updated information. We will bring it to you as it becomes available.

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