Sunday, January 29, 2017

Is Preet watching Roosevelt?

Kenneth Rijok, a Financial Crimes investigator based in Miami, FL, reported on his blog on Friday that Dominica's prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit is currently under investigation by Federal prosecutors in New York for his role in the sale of a diplomatic passport to Iranian Alireza Monfared. As he noted, Mr. Rijok based his bombshell revelation on information he received from his confidential sources, access we do not have. What we can say is this; based on the preponderance of information and evidence, circumstantial and otherwise, that exists in the public domain, it is certainly possible that Mr. Skerrit may be under scrutiny by the US authorities, in particular Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara. Insofar as it has to do with the most recent developments relating Iranian Alireza Monfared, what we know would be sufficient to initiate an investigations into Mr. Skerrit and his activities. Let us look at some.

Roosevelt Skerrit handed Mr. Monfared a diplomatic passport in March 2015 in Malaysia, just a few days having had the passport issued in Roseau. At that time Mr. Skerrit was visiting Mr. Monfared, the architect of My Dominica Trade House [MDTH], at his luxurious residence in Kuala Lumpur. In June 2015, after the entire MDTH fiasco exploded into the open, Mr. Skerrit told us that Mr. Monfared "is not an agent of the Economic Citizenship Programme, is not an agent of Discover Dominica Authority, is not an agent of Invest Dominica Authority. This is a gentleman who became a Dominican citizen who went through the due diligence process, there were no adverse findings about the gentleman and he was approved and granted citizenship. Because the guy feels so passionately about Dominica, he uses his own money to pay staff and to pay researchers to help promote Dominica". Mr. Skerrit failed to tell us then how much Mr. Monfared paid to be a citizen of Dominica with a diplomatic passport.

Mr. Skerrit took pains to state that Mr. Monfared had gone through the due diligence process and that there were no red flags, a position backed up by personal mouthpiece, Anthony Astaphan who noted that the process was done by Bishop Services, a highly-experienced private investigative service company based in New York City. In an interview with Simeon Albert on Kairi FM on Saturday January 28th, Astaphan stated that Monfared's fugitive status and connection to fellow Iranian Babak Zanjani, on death row in Iran for his involvement in the largest bribery scheme in the history of that country, only came to light at the start of this year. That is a lie.

From our investigations we can say that Monfared may not have been a fugitive from justice at the time he paid for his passport but we would like to believe that Bishop Services would have alerted the government of Dominica to a few significant kinks in Mr. Monfared's armour that should have at least given Mr. Skerrit pause. The reputation of Bishop is exemplary so we're inclined to believe that the company would have told Mr. Skerrit that he should avoid Mr. Monfared. But, as is clearly evidenced by his past and future behavior, Mr. Skerrit is magnet for corruption; the man has never met a scam he didn't like or want to participate in.

MiTC investigators have uncovered a direct link between Mr. Monfared and Mr. Zanjani that predates Mr. Monfared becoming an ambassador for Dominica. If we could have found it we have no reason to believe Bishop Services could not have.

Skerrit (l), Monfared (r) in Malaysia soon after Monfared received his diplomatic passport
Two years before Skerrit handled Mr. Monfared his diplomatic passport, on April 11, 2013, the United States Treasury Department, acting on Executive Order 13382 of 2005, which established sanctions on companies doing business with Iran, placed Iranian billionaire Babak Zanjani on the official sanctions list. Also included on that list was a company called International Safe Oil of Malaysia [Click to view]. Mr. Zanjani, during the presidency of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had enjoyed significant influence within the Iranian political establishment and used that influence to build an empire based on the sale of illegal oil, circumventing the global sanctions regime imposed by the United Nations. His sanctions-busting operations made him billions which allowed him to funnel billions more into the Iranian treasury and millions more into the pockets of numerous corrupt Iranian officials. Mr. Zanjani appears to have lost favour in Teheran when Mr. Ahmadinejad was replaced as Iranian president by Hassan Rouhani in August 2013 whose campaign for office was based on change; the old guard was out, a new one took up residence with the incoming Rouhani, who was a fierce opponent of Ahmadinejad.

The fallout of the change in presidency did not go well for Zanjani, and he became a target for his opponents, which ultimately resulted in him being prosecuted in what is being called the largest bribery scheme in the history of the country. As a result of the trial, Mr. Zanjani was convicted and sentenced to be executed; he sits on death row today. But in his rise to fame and fortune, Mr. Zanjani had a team of able assistants, one of which is Reza Zarrab.

Reza Zarrab (l), Babak Zanjani (r)
Reza Zarrab is an Turkish gold trader who teamed up with Mr. Zanjani to bust the sanctions regime against Iran. He was arrested in March 2016 by US authorities in Florida acting on a now-unsealed Federal Grand Jury Indictment when he arrived to take his family to Disneyworld [Click to view Indictment]. His arrest immediately exposed the participation of members of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government in a bribery scheme in that country. Mr. Zarrab was at the center of that scandal. Subsequent to his arrest, Mr. Zarrab was transferred to New York, where he has been sitting in jail since. Interestingly, the prosecution of Mr. Zarrab is being handled by US Attorney Preet Bharara, the same attorney currently prosecuting Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng, himself in New York under house arrest pending his trial in May 2017. Is it possible that Mr. Bharara and his team of prosecutors, while comparing notes on the Zarrab and Lap Seng cases, may have identified Mr. Skerrit and Dominica as common denominators in both cases? We think it is.

The Malaysian Connection

The case against Zanjani hinged upon allegations, subsequently proven, where Zanjani's oil tankers would anchor outside the Labuan Island District of Malaysia and, under the cover of night, oil was illegally transferred to other tankers operating under various flags of convenience. The Labuan Island District or, the Labuan Federal Territory as it is officially called, is the hub of commercial activity in Malaysia, where all types of business transactions take place, both legal and illegal. Zanjani's business operations were designed to circumvent the global sanctions against Iran emanating from the country's violation of various UN nuclear production protocols. Monies earned from this illegal activity passed through various Zanjani-owned shell companies in Labuan including a large bank, the First Islamic Investment Bank [FIIB], where he had purchased a sizable ownership stake. International Safe Oil [IS-Oil], who we mentioned earlier was added to the US government's official sanctions list in April 2013 was one such Zanjani company [Click here for Treasury's Press Release]. WHOIS record
IS-Oil was managed for Zanjani by Alireza Zibahalat Monfared, the owner of My Dominica Trade House [MDTH], also based in the Labuan District. IS-Oil's entire operations were tightly controlled by Monfared; its offices, official contacts, even the management of the company's website. From what we have gathered Mr. Monfared coordinated the entire Malaysian operation for Mr. Zanjani, earning millions of dollars in the process. It is Mr. Monfared's connection to Mr. Zanjani's operation that led to his brief detention in Malaysia at the end of 2015, where he presented his Dominican diplomatic passport to evade authorities. This near-miss experience spooked Mr. Monfared and he quickly packed his bags and fled to Dominica in an attempt to escape justice.

In a March 14, 2016 piece in Newsweek entitled "How Babak Zanjani went from Iran's top sanctions buster to dead billionaire walking", journalist Sune Engel Rasmussen attempted to track down several of Mr. Zanjani's shell companies in Malaysia.

"In early 2014, I traveled to the axis of Zanjani’s empire: Labuan, a Malaysian island little known to outsiders. Its clientele probably prefers it that way, judging from the many lone businessmen and the solemnity of the streets, which look out over oil tankers sloshing in the waves offshore. It is the kind of tax haven where people don’t ask too many questions. At the mention of Zanjani, many industry people nodded knowingly, but few divulged information. One industry source described Zanjani and his cohort like this: “It is a damn mafia.”

"Investigating the Iranian-linked businesses on Labuan constantly results in dead ends. In some cases, oil tankers were leased by a company called Glammarine, which according to Reuters was linked, by way of another shell company, to the National Iranian Oil Co. I tracked down a trust officer from the law firm ZICO, which represents Glammarine. He spoke on condition of anonymity. When I asked whether Glammarine had any physical offices, he said, “Not that I’m aware of.” Asked if the firm had any employees, the officer said, “Not that I’m aware of.”
Partial list of Labuan companies
It is important to understand that at the time of his purchase of our citizenship and diplomatic passport, Alireza Monfared knew that he would eventually be in dire need of its protections. Mr. Zanjani had already been arrested in Teheran, his trial was coming to an end and all evidence pointed to a death sentence should he be convicted; Mr. Monfared evidently saw the writing on the wall and decided to seek some guarantees for himself. Whether Mr. Skerrit knew that is unknown but it would be interesting to know how did Mr. Skerrit get to know Mr. Monfared in the first place. Emmanuel Nanthan is on record as saying that Mr. Monfared visited Dominica at some point and fell in love with the island, which prompted him to seek our citizenship. We do not believe that.

Alireza Monfared showed up in Dominica at the start of 2016 fleeing a dragnet which was closing in on him. He took up residence at a house on Morne Daniel owned by a Dominican who lives in the diaspora. Mr. Monfared's accommodations were arranged by Emmanuel Nanthan, the head of Dominica's Citizenship by Investment progamme, who was photographed celebrating Mr. Monfared at a lavish soiree in Malaysia subsequent to Mr. Monfared's receipt of our diplomatic passport.

CBI chief Emmanuel Nanthan in Malaysia receiving gifts and having a good time
Mr. Nanthan is also famous for having been the recipient of a $1.3 million dollar boost to his bank account. This sudden infusion of cash into an account that historically held small amounts prompted the bank to ask questions as to the origin of the funds, as required by law. The bank was summarily told that the funds were the proceeds from the sale of passports. But Mr. Nanthan is not an authorized seller of passports. His job is to administer the programme. That Mr. Nanthan was able to collect such a large amount of cash in such a short period of time from a programme he ought to be simply managing points to nothing other than official corruption; Mr. Nanthan accepts bribes or "gifts", as he probably would call it. There is no other explanation for it. The entire embarrassing revelation caused the government to complain to the bank and demand the dismissal of the branch manager, who was promptly replaced.

During the time Mr. Monfared was hiding out on island, he was seen frequently in the company of Mr. Nanthan as well as a cadre of government and Labour party bigwigs. That Mr. Monfared hemmed so closely with government officials suggests to us that they were protecting him; the government, in particular the Security Ministry and the Prime Minister, must have known of the manhunt for Mr. Monfared. Dominica is a participating member of Interpol, the International Police Organization. . 

At some point in 2016 Interpol contacted the authorities in Dominica to establish the whereabouts of Monfared and possibly, request his detention in lieu of an official extradition request. We believe that a similar request may have arrived at the desk of Dominica's Foreign Minister, Francine Baron, from the Foreign Ministry if Iran. We know that nothing was done to secure Mr. Monfared and he was subsequently allowed to flee Dominica in September for parts unknown to most except a few officials, to avoid an embarrassing situation where our country would be under the world's klieg lights for harboring a major fugitive. Mr. Monfared ended up in the Dominican Republic where he was discovered recently. He was flown to Havana and then on to Moscow and ultimately Teheran, where he sits in an Iranian jail pending trial.

The Road Ahead

Last week as news of Mr. Monfared's arrest and extradition to Iran engulfed us, Dominica's Foreign Ministry released an image of what was claimed to be Mr. Monfared's diplomatic passport with a cancelled stamp on a page adjacent to his ID. Interestingly, the Ms. Baron's ministry stated in a press release that accompanied the photograph that Mr. Monfared had gone through the due diligence process. If her intent is to have us assume that she is referring to the process prior to the issuance of the passport we can't say, but we do know that Anthony Astaphan stated that the passport was cancelled after due diligence was done on Mr. Monfared. So we have a situation where both Mr. Skerrit and Ms. Baron are implying that due diligence was done first, and Astaphan declaring it was done after. Who do you believe? 

What has Mr. Skerrit got us into? Did he knowingly provide "aid and comfort" to an international criminal? Knowing all these facts, we ask again; are US prosecutors, in particular, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, looking into Mr. Skerrit and his activities? We would if we were prosecutors but time will tell. Mr. Skerrit, as a head of state, will continue to be granted deference by the prosecutors; neither Mr. Bharara nor the US State Department want to ignite an international incident relating to a head of state of a sovereign nation. But that will last only so long as Mr. Skerrit remains Dominica's prime minister. It is quite possible that there is a sealed indictment awaiting Mr. Skerrit when he leaves office. That too we will discover but until then, we have to take action. We cannot continue to allow Mr. Skerrit to drag us and the name of the country we so love down the drain with him. Mr. Skerrit's continued presence as prime minister is cancerous to us and may ultimately prove to be fatal. We have got to act. Now!

Share this:

Post a Comment

Copyright © 2014 Mas In The Cemetery. Designed by OddThemes | Distributed By Blogger Templates20