About eight nationals from countries deemed to be “State Sponsors of Terrorism” on the 2017 U.S State Department list have apparently been granted Grenadian citizenship under the controversial passport-selling scheme known as Citizenship by Investment (CBI) in connection with the controversial Levera project which collapsed within recent days.
The names of the eight were gleaned from court papers filed in the Supreme Court Registry in Grenada in a dispute between the owners of the Levera lands, Levera Resort Development Limited (LRDL) and Grenada Citizen Development Limited (GCDL) in which high court judge Raulston Glasgow on August 21 issued a freezing order on monies in the possession of the land owners.
The main players in Levera Resorts are British-born investor Paul Taylor and his wife who has Grenadian connection, as well as local businessman, Lyden Ramdhanny, a former Minister of Tourism in the ill-fated 1979-83 People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG). U.S nationals Robert Oveson and his brother Randall Oveson from the State of Utah are the principal figures behind GCDL which is developing the lands from funds secured from foreign investors who are guaranteed Grenadian passports in return for their financial contributions.
The controversial Robert Oveson who operates out of Nevis was engulfed two years ago in a court battle with Bitcoin giant, Roger Ver who filed a criminal complaint with Grenada police that he paid US$1 million to the Levera developers for a passport which he never got.
A Chinese billionaire who owns the company Singapore Heng Sheng (Grenada) Development PTE, LTD has reportedly bought the 256 acres of lands owned by LRDL at Levera for an estimated US$35 million which is believed to have been deposited in a bank account in Portugal that is controlled by Paul Taylor.
According to the court papers – six of the nationals who have been granted Grenadian citizens through the Levera project are from Syria – Rdwan Dass, Mhd Al Hafi, Moutee Marouf Balwi, Elham Edlbi, Mohamad Soutari and Mhd Hassan Kweder.
The name of the Iranian in the court papers is Reza Pourbahador and the name of the person from Iraq is Abdullah Hassan Mater.
There are also nationals who were given Grenadian passports from countries that were once on the U.S list as sponsors of terrorism – Othman Al-Jawfi, Mohammed Ahmed and Muthanna Al-Bareai of Yemen, and Michel Jean El Asmar of Lebanon.
Also given a Grenadian passport was Abaseen Emal of Afghanistan, which was not on the U.S list as sponsors of terrorism despite reports of the country harbouring terrorist groups.
When THE NEW TODAY newspaper on Tuesday approached visiting U.S Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Linda Taglialatela to seek a response on this development, the Press Secretary in the Office of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell tried to intervene. “I don’t mind answering,” the U.S Ambassador said to the hearing of Press Secretary Philomena Robertson. According to Ambassador Taglialatela, the United States supports Citizenship By Investment (CBI) programmes but Washington is concerned about the danger it poses.
“The United States is obviously concerned because once someone gets a passport from one of the Commonwealth countries, these individuals have greater access to travel”, she said.
The U.S envoy called on Grenada and other countries involved in the sale of passports to be “cautious”. “So yes, while we support Citizenship By Investment Programmes, we do encourage people to be cautious and do due diligence before they give passports to people,” she said.
“If these countries are offering passports to Iranians or Syrians, obviously it causes us some concern but again, we continue to do our due diligence before we allow them to our country,” she added.
The court papers in Grenada revealed that 16 Chinese and 6 Russians also poured money into the Levera project to obtain their Grenadian passports through the Oveson-initiated project.
The documents showed that Chinese national Hui Xu paid US$2.3 million for cottages at Levera to obtain Grenadian citizenship.
Most of the foreigners who contributed financially to the Levera project to obtain Grenadian citizenship paid on average US$375, 000.00.
The Mitchell-led regime has passed legislation in Parliament which gives it the right not to publish the names of foreign nationals who obtain Grenadian citizenship through its passport-selling scheme.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Afghanistan was included on the U.S list as sponsors of terrorism. However, Afghanistan was not included on the official U.S list of sponsors of terrorism.