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mithcell astaphan
A combination photo of former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell (L) and Senior Counsel to the Ottley Hall Commission of Inquiry, Anthony Astaphan.

ST. VINCENT: – Former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell will know in early December if he will have to testify before the tribunal investigating the disappearance of almost EC$200 million (US$74 million) during the construction of the Ottley Hall Marina.

The Ottley Hall Commission of Inquiry is attempting to determine who, if anyone, is responsible for the funds during the construction of the project, for which Sir James retained sole ministerial oversight.

Sir James has employed several legal manoeuvres to avoid testifying before the commission, saying that it is biased against him.

Senior counsel to the Commission, Dominican lawyer Anthony Astaphan, said on the Unity Labour Party’s radio station on Sunday that Sir James’ case will be heard soon.

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“For obvious reasons, I cannot say too much about the Ottley Hall issues because the case with Sir James Mitchell is coming up on the 1st to the 2nd or 3rd of December and the Ottley Hall Inquiry is not completed,” he said on Star Issues on Sunday.

“…without me having to tell you what actually transpired — the proceeding of the Ottley Hall Inquiry were broadcast live and everybody would have heard the extraordinary situation that surrounded this loan agreement,” Astaphan said.

He was speaking of the loans the NDP had taken from the Italian government to finance the project.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has since secured forgiveness for the debt, which Astaphan said “was a burden on the back of the people”.

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“… it is one of the things that the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines can look at and say look having heard what I have heard so far, with the obvious reluctance of Sir James Mitchell to give evidence for reasons he claim of bias in his legal case, that if that is the manner in which the NDP, under Sir James Mitchell and Arnhim Eustace are prepared to get foreign investment in this country and to develop the country quote-unquote as a — we better not have it,” Astaphan said.

Astaphan appeared on the programme to make a case for the re-election of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and his Unity Labour Party (ULP) to a third consecutive term in office during the Dec 13 general elections.

He noted that Gonsalves has secured debt forgiveness for the project.

“But compare that rather ugly and rather reckless scenario with the programmes, the funding, the grant funding that the Unity Labour Party and Ralph Gonsalves have been able to obtain over the past ten years to put in place a socio-economic revolution in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Astaphan said.