President Donald Trump
By Caribbean News Now contributor
WASHINGTON, USA — In the words of British comedian John Oliver, “…sometimes out of sheer coincidence he (US President Donald Trump) happens to do something amazing.” In this instance, that something amazing for the Caribbean may be “draining the swamp” in the State Department by means of significant budget cuts, which could root out some or all of the career civil servants who have not served the region at all well.
The latest example is the recently released State Department’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR 2017), which in Volume II thereof contained assertions in relation to Antigua and Barbuda, all of which on their face are factually incorrect in general or in detail. No evidence is offered or sources quoted in the report for such false statements, which have accordingly been rejected publicly by the government of Antigua and Barbuda.
According to senior sources in other US government agencies, this has given rise to some very serious concern on the grounds that, if the State Department’s assertions of fact are shown to be baseless and/or unsupported by other government departments and agencies that should have been consulted, the inescapable implication is that US foreign policy is flawed because it is being driven by flawed or false intelligence and reporting.
Furthermore, if it can be shown that the adverse report in relation to Antigua and Barbuda was based upon “alternative facts” rather than reality, this will add weight to the suggestion that it was motivated by spitefulness and retaliation for Antigua’s recent efforts to enforce the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling and award against the US in relation to online gaming.
Again, the very real possibility of US foreign policy being driven by spite and malice, coupled with deliberately false assertions of fact, has the makings of another major scandal in a US administration that seems continually embroiled in controversy.
One of the assertions made in the INSCR 2017 was that Antigua and Barbuda operates a citizenship by investment program (CIP) that is “among the most lax in the world”, which “increases its susceptibility to money laundering and other financial crimes”.
However, in a bizarre turn of events on Friday, Prime Minister Gaston Browne informed Parliament in Antigua and Barbuda that the US Embassy in Bridgetown had made it known to the government that the embassy would “discontinue doing due diligence” on applicants for Antigua and Barbuda’s CIP.
According to Browne, an unnamed male functionary at the embassy informed Thomas Anthony, the deputy head of the Citizenship by Investment Unit (CIU), of this decision in a telephone call but there has as yet been no written communication or other official notice.
The State Department has therefore accused Antigua and Barbuda of doing insufficient due diligence in relation to CIP applicants when it was all along assisting with such due diligence; and, having alleged inadequate due diligence, it is now withdrawing future assistance in that regard, which is certainly not calculated to resolve the alleged shortcomings.
We asked the State Department and the Bridgetown embassy to let us have their reaction and comments on this matter for publication and also identify the person at the embassy who placed the telephone call to Thomas Anthony in Antigua; at what level was the decision to discontinue assistance with CIP due diligence made, i.e. by the embassy or further up the chain of command at the State Department in Washington; and the reasons for such decision in the first place.
Noel Clay at the State Department Press Office responded: “The United States routinely cooperates with law enforcement authorities throughout the Caribbean, but we do not discuss specifics of that cooperation. We have no further comment.”