TAIPEI, Taiwan:- There was nothing wrong with members of the prime minister’s family and high ranking officials of his party selling thousands of US dollars to the state bank in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) over the last month.
That was the word from the country’s Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves to reporters this week.
“Nothing wrong has been done! Nothing!” Gonsalves said.
“The institutions are working. The National Commercial Bank [NCB], they have a fine leadership … and I expect that they will conduct their business within the framework of the law,” Gonsalves said.
Leader of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) Arnhim Eustace last week raised questions about US$1m (EC$2.7m) in cash that the state bank reportedly refused to accept from a depositor.
He did not identify the alleged depositor but said that the bank refused to accept the money and requested that the person attempting to make the deposit return and collect the cash.
Eustace sent to Speaker of the House of Assembly Hendrick Alexander an early question for oral answer at the next sitting of Parliament.
He wanted Gonsalves to verify the information and if true say from whom the money was received and for what purpose.
Eustace also wanted to know who attempted to deposit the funds and why the bank rejected the deposit, the location of the money and if the Financial Intelligence Unit had investigated the alleged incident.
A flickr account last week displayed sections of documents purported to show the sale of US Dollars transactions to the NCB by members of Gonsalves’ family, including his Wife Eloise Gonsalves, daughter Isis Gonsalves and his son Storm Gonsalves.
The document also recorded transaction allegedly made by other high ranking members of Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party (ULP), including president of Unity Youth Rosette Bennet and Senator Saboto Ceasar.
“Does anybody believe that the only transactions conducted by the National Commercial Bank between the middle of October and the 17th of November, that the only transaction in foreign currency are those on that list?” Gonsalves said on Monday.
“You don’t think that there are other people in St. Vincent and the Grenadine [who] sold US dollars to the national commercial bank? Of course!
“But what they do, they select Julian Francis name and Eloise, the wife of the prime minister, and two of his children.”
He said that the NDP was encouraging and engaged in the dissemination of information that cast innocent citizens in a bad light.
“Rather than discouraging this conduct, operative within the NDP have been using modern technology to spread information all over the world traducing innocent people making it appear that to change money at a bank is a criminal offence.”
However, the NDP lashed back at Gonsalves on Tuesday saying that he had refused to answer its questions about the source of the US$1m and the “financial dealings by the Prime Minister’s family”.
The party said that Gonsalves seemed to suggest that the money came from individual donations from Vincentians, totalling US$1m and donated at the same time by the ULP.
The party said that Gonsalves, who is also minister of Finance, did not say why a Suspicious Activity Report was not filed by the bank for “such an astonishingly unusual cash payment”, or why the ULP neither announced nor celebrated “such a huge amount of supposed small individual donations”.
“The people deserve the truth. In fact, the people can state very definitely whether they believe the Prime Minister is telling the truth at the referendum tomorrow – by voting NO!” Eustace said in the statement.