The New Today

Commentary

Spotlight on H.E. Oleg Firer & the International Association for Economic Development

Grenada’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation, H.E. Oleg Firer, seems to have had a very busy two years, 2020-2021.

Among other things, he was busy with expanding Grenada’s diplomatic relations with many of the Soviet Union’s former Republics – presenting his credentials and negotiating visa wavers, or where diplomatic relations did not exist, establishing them.

One notes that his name has made its way onto the gov.gd website where his name is listed along the other diplomatic and consular representatives abroad whom one assumes are public servants.

While, in the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, there is an allocation for each of the other embassies, there is no allocation for the Embassy of Grenada to the Russian Federation.

The question therefore remains, what are the arrangements governing the relationship between the Government of Grenada and Ambassador Firer and how are the operational costs of the Embassy, including the local staff financed? To whom does the Ambassador account and from whom does he receive instructions?

  1. Fundamental Agreement: GoG- Russian Federation
  • There is an interesting item on the Embassy of Grenada’s website, of January 25th, 2020 – Order of the President of the Russian Federation № 7-rp in the name of President V. Putin:-

“Accept the proposal of the Government of the Russian Federation to sign the Fundamental Agreement between the Russian Federation and Grenada.

Upon reaching an agreement with the Grenadian side, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia to sign the Agreement on behalf of the Russian Federation, allowing it to introduce amendments to its draft approved by the Government of the Russian Federation that are not of a fundamental nature.”

  • Comment/Query:

Fundamental Agreement: What is the Fundamental Agreement? What areas are covered under this agreement?

– Amendments: What are these amendments that are not of a fundamental nature? Are these amendments desired by the Government of Grenada or the Russian Federation? Or otherwise? This is very opaque language and I am totally confused!! Is it the translation?

  1. Co-operation/Assistance to Grenada

One notes that over the 2020-2021 period, the Embassy of Grenada reported on the following assistance to Grenada:-

– December 2020, “Russia donates reagent kits for complex diagnostics of COVID-19 infection to Grenada” : donated by the Federal Budget Institution of Epidemiology of the Federal Service on Customers’ Rights Protection of the Russian Federation (The FBSI Central Research Institute of Epidemiology).

– January 25th 2021, Embassy of Grenada Arranges for the Donation of Lap Top Computers : Thirty-two (32) computers were donated by an entity, VIP Systems, Inc . which appears to be a company based in Miami and were distributed to three ministries – Health, Agriculture and Foreign Affairs.

– March 23rd 2021, Grenada Signs Sputnik V Vaccine Deal with RDIF : – “Collaboration agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) allows for the initial distribution of 1 million doses of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine for the CARICOM region” ; Grenada would serve as a local, centralized distribution point in the region and undertake the logistics and regulatory approval for the vaccine.

2.1. Comment/Query:

It is unclear what is the status of the Sputnik V agreement and Grenada’s role.   The Minister of Health advised of this agreement in his press briefing of March 23rd but since that time, the nation has not had further news and Sputnik V is not available in Grenada. To the best of knowledge, Sputnik V has experienced a delay re approval from the World Health Organisation.   However, the vaccine is in use in Antigua & Barbuda , Guyana and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. After receipt of an initial 1,000 doses from a “private donor”, Prime Minister Gonsalves of SVG opted to negotiate directly with Russia and obtain it at the factory price of $9.95/dose .

3.Building Presence in Highly Competitive Markets

Even more informative than the Embassy’s website is the personal website of H.E. with its home page declaring “Building presence in highly competitive markets”.   The following are   highlighted under the Featured Work of the Ambassador.

  • Diplomacy:-

– Embassy of Grenada to the Russian Federation – Grenada’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Grenada to the Russian Federation and the CIS, Concurrently Non-Resident Ambassador to the Republic of Kazakhstan, Ambassador (Designate)to the Republic of Serbia, the Republic of Bulgaria, the Republic of Albania, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Principality of Monaco.

– World Health Organisation – Member of the Executive Board; it is reasonable to assume that H.E. is referring to his role as Alternate to Min. Steele given that the Minister of Health, Hon. Nikolas is the Member for the period 2020-2022,

  • Non-Profit:-

– St. George’s Club – director;

– Eastern Caribbean Block Chain Association – Chairman;

– International Association for Economic Development – co-founder;

  • Health Care Redefined: Progressive Care – Director;
  • Investments: Star Capital Investments   – Chairman;
  • Charity: Firer Family Charitable Foundation

H.E.’s work in the non-profit sector is of particular interest. How are these non-profit entities contributing to building presence in highly competitive markets and whose presence?   A non-profit entity, the International Association for Economic Development, appears to be one of H.E.’s newest creations. He identified himself as a co-founder. It was unclear who was/were the other co-founder(s).

3.1. Eastern Caribbean Block Chain Association (ECBA)

I first became aware of the ECBA back in August 2018. Its address was Westerhall, St. David’s and its contact was Olinga Mitchell, who had been appointed as Legal Advisor in the Ministry of Finance not too long prior to his father Prime Minister Mitchell, also the Minister of Finance, becoming Chair of the Eastern Caribbean Monetary Council in July 2018.

The ECBA proclaims that it is “promoting Blockchain Innovation in the Eastern Caribbean” and describes itself as “the voice of the Eastern Caribbean crypto-currency and blockchain community”.   According to the website, the ECBA aims “to foster and co-ordinate the Eastern Caribbean’s depth of talent, drive and enthusiasm to position it as a dominant force on the world stage”. That would be done by “engaging with regulators, policy makers, educators, for and not for profit organisations and technology entrepreneurs through direct communication to guide the public dialogue about block chain technology”.

  • Comment/Query: That sounds like the mandate of the newly minted Ambassador, the crypto-billionaire, H.E. Justin Sun.   Was the appointment of H.E. Justin Sun influenced by the ECBA? Is/was he a member of the ECBA? Is he being mentored/advised re his ambassadorial role to the WTO by the ECBA?

3.1.1. Ambassadors at the ECBA

The ECBA is even more opaque than I recall. On the website, there were NO names associated with the Association, not even that of H.E. Firer. However, his website,   identified him as Chairman. Another website identified him as Ambassador for Peace at Universal Peace Federation , 2020 to present and Ambassador Designate for Grenada, 2016 to present!!???. This website also identifies two International Ambassadors at ECBA, one Colin Bishop   and one, Gary Gelman.

3.1.1.1.   Reef View Enterprises Ltd (RVE), CBI Agent

Amb. Bishop (?) is also a Local Citizenship by Investment Agent, associated with Reef View Enterprises Ltd , .   He is one of the two contacts provided by the website RVECBI. The other is one Ekaterina Lapitskaya. Two addresses are provided, one in Grenada at the Le Marquis Complex and one in Russia, at the Embassy of Grenada Embassy to the Russian Federation!!???.

3.1.1.2.    Comment/Query

  • Is the Citizenship by Investment Agent, Reef View Enterprises conducting its business at Grenada’s Embassy in Russia? Who/what is/are the owner(s)/operator(s) of this business?
  • What arrangements does RVECBI have with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Government of Grenada to operate a private business at the Embassy?
  1. St. George’s Club (“SGC”)
  • New Dawn Conference, 2017: The St. George’s Club describes itself as “a non-profit organization founded on the principle of networking and building relationships that last”.   Formed by the organisers of the New Dawn Russian / Eurasian-Caribbean economic, media and academic forum held in Grenada in November 2017, the objective of the St. George’s Club is to improve contacts between the Caribbean and Eurasian businesses, cultural and government communities.
  • Next Step Conference February 2019: A follow-up conference took place over the period February 22-24, 2019, again billed an economic, media and academic forum. The organizers of the forum were St. George’s Club, Government of Grenada and the Bering-Bellingshausen Institute (IBBA) . A local news story on the forum advised   that Min. Steele issued a warning to Russian investors at the conference. This suggests that the conference was another special interests citizenship by investment forum.
  • New Energy Conference, 2020 : The third conference, the New Energy Conference, scheduled for May 4-6, 2020 in Grenada at the Royalton Grenada Resort, appears to have been postponed. The Global Energy Association was also going to be participating in this conference for the first time “to discuss issues of joint work in the field of sustainable development with representatives of business and academic circles of the Caribbean Community countries” .   Worthy of note is the fact that the President of the Global Energy Association, Sergev Brilev, is also the co-founder of IBBA, one of the sponsors of the conference.

–  Among the speakers listed were:- Roy Jones Jr.:- American; professional Boxing Champion and Dr. Rae Kwon Chung:- Korean national, Nobel Peace Prize Winner 2007 as part of the IPCC Panel;   Former Advisor on Climate Change to the Secretary-General of the UN.

  • Sponsors: The sponsors identified were:-   St. George’s Club; Embassy of Grenada to the Russian Federation; Government of Grenada; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation; Bering-Bellingshausen Institute (IBBA); VIP Systems; a.k.a Agency; Russian Direct Investment Fund.

3.3.  International Association for Economic Development

The International Association for Economic Development   was founded in November 2020. One notes that the IAED commemorated its first anniversary with an event hosted on November 2021 held at the Residence of the Embassy of Grenada to the Russian Federation, with H.E. being Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

3.3.1.            Articles of Association :

The following information from the Articles of Association were noted:-

  • According to its Articles of Association (the English version), it is the Entrepreneurs Association for the development of Mutually Beneficial Relations «International Association for Economic Development» referred to as the Association.
  • It was founded by completely capable citizens of the Russian Federation carrying out activities in the field of business development based on voluntary membership and created to represent and protect common interests, including professional ones, to achieve socially useful goals.
  • The Association is a non-profit corporate organization,……….
  • The Association was established and operates in accordance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the Civil Code of the Russian Federation, the Federal Law No. 7-FZ “On non-profit organizations”, No. 129-FZ “On state registration of legal entities and individual entrepreneurs”, other legislative acts, and these Articles of Association.
  • The Association has the right to create branches in the Russian Federation and abroad and open representative offices in accordance with the laws of the Russian Federation, international law and the laws of the countries where branches are created and representative offices are opened.
  • Members of the Association can be completely capable Russian and foreign (legally located on the territory of the Russian Federation) citizens, Russian and foreign legal entities that share the statutory goals of the Association.
  • Management of the Association Activity: The General meeting of founders elects the Board of the Association, the Director of the Association when creating the Association.
  • The Board is elected by the General Meeting of the Association members for a period of 5 years, in the amount of at least two people. Any member or members of the Association may be elected as a member of the Board of the Association.
  • The number of elected members of the Board shall be determined by the General Meeting of the Members of the Association.

3.3.1.1.  Minutes No. 1/2020СЧ of the Extraordinary General Meeting of Members

  • Total number of members were listed as two – Barna Anastasiia Vladimirovna and Panarin Asaf Ivanovich. The quorum was 100%. The meeting was deemed competent to make resolutions on the agenda.
  • The members of the Board of Trustees of the Association were validated: –

Oleg Firer, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Grenada to the Russian Federation and the CIS and Roy Jones Jr.

  • Anastasiia Vladimirovna Barna was elected as the chairperson and secretary of the Meeting and the person counting the votes.

3.3.1.2: Comment/Query:

  • Founders: Information about membership/founders and Board was really confusing. Amb. Firer advised that he was a co-founder. Given that The Association was founded by “completely capable citizens of the Russian Federation”, how is it that Amb. Firer identifies himself as a co-founder?
  • Chairman of Board of Trustees/Director: The General meeting of founders elects the Board of the Association, the Director of the Association when creating the Association. Therefore, one can conclude that Amb. Firer and Roy Jones Jr. were elected to the Board of Trustees by the general meeting of founders (how many founders?) and the Director, A.V. Barna was chosen.
  • Members: According to the minutes of the Extra-ordinary General Meeting of members, the total number of members were listed as two – Barna Anastasiia Vladimirovna and Panarin Asaf Ivanovich.
  • Fin Trust Company s.r.o and Star Equities LLC : Is Mr. Ivanovich the Managing Director/owner of Fin Trust which was liquated in May 2021? What is the relationship of Fin Trust and Star Equities LLC , part of the family of H.E.’s Star Capital investment company? Was Star Equities LLC a shareholder of Fin Trust prior to liquidation or did it acquire the assets of the liquated company?
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3.3.2. Mission

The mission of the International Association for Economic Development is “to build valuable links between the international community and business for the purpose of economic development”. …

3.3.2.  Board of Trustees

At November 2021, the members of the Board of Trustees of the International Association for Economic Development were:-

  • Oleg Firer: Chairman; Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Grenada to the Russian Federation and the CIS. Concurrently Non-Resident Ambassador to the Republic of Kazakhstan, (appointed) Ambassador to the Republic of Serbia, the Republic of Bulgaria, the Republic of Albania, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Principality of Monaco;
  • Pierre Clive Ajus: His Excellency Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Malta to Russia;
  • Roy Jones Jr.: Curator of the Department for the Development and Promotion of Sports; world boxing champion in four weight categories;
  • Steven Seagal: Curator of the Department of Cultural Development; American actor, film producer, screenwriter, filmmaker, musician and martial artist;
  • Domingo Nina Antonio Cabrera: His Excellency Minister Plenipotentiary, Counselor of the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in Russia:
  • Said T. Javad: His Excellency Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to Russia;
  • Milorad Shcepanovich:   His Excellency, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Montenegro to the Russian Federation
  • Christopher Constantinidi: Chairman of the Expert Council of the State Duma Committee on Tourism and Development of Tourism Infrastructure; First Vice President of the National Hospitality Industry Union (OSIG); Scientific director of the direction of sustainable development of the National Rating Agency
  • Koroleva Julia: Director of the Federal State Budgetary Institution “Federal Center for Evaluation of the Safety and Quality of Grain and its Processing Products”;
  • Alfonso Lopez Caballero: His Excellency, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Colombia;

3.3.3. Goals and Objectives of the IAED

  • Business Connections: Create a productive networking platform that allows for a constructive dialogue between business and the international community;
  • An Association: unite countries for economic and business development by linking the diplomatic corps with the local entrepreneurs;
  • Economic Development: promote economic and social development in the countries represented in the IAED;
  • Community Development: develop a business community of entrepreneurs in the international market;

3.3.4. Members/Partners

  • IAED boasts of 72 participants representing 15 countries with 5 billion in total turnover.
  • Development of Partner Apparatus:   A strategic objective of the IAED is the development of the partner apparatus, increasing partner collaborations in the areas of activity of departments and within each department in order to open up new opportunities and prospects for members and partners of the Association in areas of mutual interest.
  • Areas of Mutual Interest: transport, energy, healthcare, industry, intellectual property, information technology and the digital economy, entrepreneurship development , including small and medium-sized businesses, regional economic integration.
  • Association Partners:   Embassy of Grenada to Russian Federation; Mediarbitage; Net Element; Limco Logisitics; Anton Storchak ; Russian Israeli Business Council; LLCLPK Agrocultura; Moscow Bar No.1; PayOnLine; Technodynamics; Russian Export Centre; International Fund for Technological Development; Association of Russian Caribbean Friendship; V-tell Group of Companies; Fund RK-Investments; RRCC business club

3.3.5.  What IAED Offers Its Members

According to its website, the IAED provides the following services to its members:-

  • Entering the world market: assistance in finding foreign partners and clients, new markets, in order to scale Russian and international businesses;
  • Investment projects: support in the promotion of investment projects, search for private investors, participation in government investment initiatives;
  • Consultations: getting advice on doing business in Russia and abroad, helping to reduce the risks associated with business;
  • Access to resources: systematic work on the presentation of products to a narrow target audience within the framework of events held by the Association and through the information resources of the Association.
  • Partnership agreements: services of international consulting, marketing, legal, logistics agencies that are partners of the Association.
  • International collaborations and regional integration: participation in the work of public formations, collaboration with government officials to develop initiatives aimed at developing economy.

3.3.6.  News and Events:

The website featured the following news/events:-

  • IAED First Anniversary Event: The first anniversary was commemorated in November 2021 with an event at the Residence of the Embassy of Grenada to the Russian Federation at which Chairman of the Board of Trustees, H.E. Oleg Firer and His Excellency, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the Russian Federation, Mr. Said Tayeb Javad signed an agreement to join IAED Board of Trustees.   There was a “solemn ceremony of signing new strategically important agreements” following which H.E. and the Director of IAED, A.V. Barna, “summed up the results of the first year of the organization’s work”.
  • 4th Anniversary of Opening of Grenada’s Embassy in Moscow : The website also advised that IAED was the “official partner” with the Embassy of Grenada re hosting an event on August 13th to mark the 4th anniversary of the opening of the Embassy of Grenada in Moscow. The Director of IAED congratulated H.E. Oleg Firer, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of IAED “for his contribution to the development of the Association and support in the international arena”.   Also offering IAED congratulations was Mr. Steven Segal, Member of the Board of Trustees and Curator of the Department of Culture of the Association.
  • Innovation Projects at IAED:   On September 16, 2021, the Russian-Caribbean Friendship Association, the International Association for Economic Development IAED and Hadassah Medical Moscow hosted a joint event which presented “innovative projects” in the financial sector, medicine, IT-technologies, and the energy industry” of the following countries: – Colombia – “Investment opportunities in the technological industry”; Moldova – “Moldova IT Park”; Grenada – “Synergy Park Grenada”, Hadassah Medical Center. Among persons making remarks were Mr. Timur Mubarakshin, head of the Hadassah Medical LTD. Branch.

 Comment/Observation/Query:

  • What is Synergy Park?
  • Who/what is Hadassah Medical Ltd.?   It is doing business as Khadassa Medikal Ltd, Filial. There are five companies in this corporate family. and its key principal is Timur Faridovich Mubarakshin. It began its operations/was incorporated in 2018.
  • Is it part of Hadassah Medical Moscow , a branch of Hadassah University Hospital (Israel) – “…….the first medical institution in the history of Russian health care managed by a foreign hospital……….”   “which provides remote and face-to-face advice from the leading Israeli doctors, experts from Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem…….”
  • Grenada – The Gold Standard for Citizenship Investment”, October 15th:   The head of CBI programs of the International Association for Economic Development, on the eve of the international exhibition on overseas real estate and investment, shared why Grenada is currently considered one of the most attractive places in the world for investment programs for Citizenship.
  • CBI Specialists: It referred to the link citizen.gd for more detailed information and advice from “our specialists”   or “by taking part in the international exhibition of foreign real estate MPIRES mpires.ru , to be held on October 29-30, 2021 at the Expocentre in Moscow.
  • Citizen.gd advises that the Grenada Citizenship programme is supported by the Embassy of Grenada in Moscow and the address given is that of the Embassy.

– MPIRES : Moscow Premier International Real Estate Show was described as “the first of its kind international real estate exhibition in a world-renowned exhibition center “Expocentre” , attended “by highly qualified specialists and representatives of different realtor companies and developers from many countries…”.

  • “VPI expo”: It was organized by “VPI expo”, a member of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce of Moscow and of the Russian Federation.

3.3.7.   Comments/Queries

  • New Energy Conference and IAED: One could ask whether the IAED was the follow-on from the “New Energy Conference” that was not. It is useful to note that Mr. Roy Jones, would be speaker at the New Energy Conference, is a member of the Board of Trustees of IAED.
  • Steven Segal: Mr. Steven Segal, Director of IAED and its Curator of the Department of Culture, visited Grenada in August 2021. A news item advised that he was invited to visit by H.E. – who was also visiting – and was exploring business opportunities in Grenada, apparently in the arts and tourism. He met with Hon. Yolande Bain, Minister of Culture and visited the Range Development in La Sagesse with Min. Steele. Another news item makes reference to a Facebook post which advised that he visited martial arts students. Did he also visit the still closed Grenada National Museum?

Mr. Seagal is an interesting character.

  • Special Envoy for US-Russia Bilateral Relations: American born (of Russian Jewish heritage) and famous as a martial arts expert and an actor, in August 2018, he was named by President Putin as special envoy for bilateral ties to improve relations between US and Russia. .
  • Brand Ambassador for B2G: He ran afoul of US Securities and Exchange Commission for “failing to disclose payments he received for promoting an investment in an initial coin offering (ICO) conducted by Bitcoin2Gen (B2G)”
  • Intermediary re Access to Sputnik V Vaccine , : There are also stories of Mr. Segal arranging access to Sputnik V vaccines for intermediaries who sell them at exorbitant prices to the receiving country. Ghana and Guyana appear to have sourced Sputnik V via this route. Mr. Segal denied knowledge of transaction(s).

One should pay close attention to Mr. Segal. His celebrity status will definitely blind many people in Grenada.

  • CBI Specialists Operating out of Embassy of Grenada: It is significant that the IAED news story seems to have deliberately omitted the name of the Head of its CBI programmes. One notes that three members of the Board of Trustees are diplomatic representatives of countries which have CBI programmes – Grenada, Malta and Montenegro.   Reference was made to the CBI specialists at citizen.gd. Who are these people? Are they associated with Reef Ventures Enterprise?
  • Contribution of H.E./Support in the International Arena: The congratulations proffered to H.E by the Director of IAED for “his contribution to the development of the Association and support in the international arena”. takes on a special significance when one considers the information in Section 1 above, What were these “contributions” of H.E.? In which international arena(s)? To whose benefit?
  1. Whose Interests?
  • IAED and Grenada: Is there a relationship between IAED and Grenada? It is NOT featured on the Embassy’s website though there are facebook postings. It appears on the website of Ambassador Firer, featured work of H.E. in the non-profit sector. Non-profit sector??
  • Non-Profit Sector: Ref. 3.3.4. above – IAED boasts of 72 participants representing 15 countries with 5 billion in total turnover. Can 5 billion in total turnover be considered the non-profit sector?

Again, it is necessary to reiterate that the boundaries are fuzzy in respect of the Ambassador’s official role and the public interests and his full time pursuits of varied private interests, enabled by his ambassadorial status. It would appear that “the Association” is another step in creating/enhancing the “ecosystem” that would enable his private interests and that of the special investor interests to thrive.

  1. Geopolitics

What is driving/guiding Grenada’s foreign policy? The Russian President has been making some interesting statements/threats recently. There is political instability in a number of these autocratic, CIS states. What is determining Grenada’s relations with these countries and what are our interests? It would seem that H.E. is large and in charge, very much “running things”. Does Grenada know? Does Grenada care?

Sandra Ferguson