Editor: Some Vincentian politicians and members of the legal profession may feel an anal quiver when they realise that the Nano accusations fiasco could well be starting again.

Thierry Dorian Alain Jeff Nano

The Nano family was headed by Thierry’s father, Armando Nano [deceased], who was born in Genoa, Italy, on August 4, 1925, but who became a French citizen.

Other family members include Ubaldo Nano, who was chairman of both Owens Bank [SVG] and New Bank [SVG] in 1991; Sylvino [Sylvio] Mario Nano [deceased], who was a director of Owens Bank from 1983 to 1988; Jacqueline Nano, Thierry’s wife, who was the manager of Owens Bank from 1990 to 1992 and manager of New Bank from 1990 to 1992; and Claire Nano, who has been a shareholder of New Bank.

In or around 1958, Armando Nano allegedly ripped off Colonel Nasser, the president of Egypt, by accepting hundreds of millions of lira that was transferred to the Nano-affiliated “Bank of America City” in Tangiers, Morocco, in return for 150 tanks that were never delivered. Shortly after payment, the bank closed.

From 1975 to 1994, the Nanos and Owens Bank were allegedly part of another fraud perpetrated on the Libyan Armed Forces, who allegedly paid the Nanos $15.3 million for night-vision goggles that were never delivered. According to documents of a lawsuit filed in the High Court of St. Vincent, the Nanos carried out the scheme in conjunction with arms dealer George Stackmann.

There have also been other allegations of involvement in investment frauds, sometimes involving the alleged sale of apparently worthless stock to unsuspecting members of the public.

French firm L’Etoile Commerciale S.A. once obtained a FF30 million (approximately $4 million) judgment against Owens Bank.

The Nano family has operated banks in Anguilla, Turks and Caicos Islands and St. Vincent and has a long history of disputes with regulators and creditors, including the Egyptian and the Libyan governments.

The Nanos have a history of granting unsecured, interest-free loans to government ministers and demanding repayment when it suits them.

In June 1995, the Nano-owned Owens Bank had demanded the repayment of loans, with interest, from Parnel R. Campbell, the bank’s former Vincentian lawyer who was attorney general and deputy prime minister of St. Vincent at the time. Campbell also had supervisory responsibility over the St. Vincent Trust Authority, which regulates banks.

The licenses of Nano and Sons 1146 Private Bankers and New Bank were revoked in July of last year by the St. Vincent authorities following pressure from the United States.

This prompted the Nano family to publicly demand the repayment of unsecured, interest-free loans that they claimed to have issued to government ministers, including then Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell.

The Nano family’s attorney was Rene Mercedes Baptiste, the government minister of culture and a former manager of the St. Vincent Trust Authority, which regulates banks.

An attorney at law for over 35 years, Ms Rene Baptiste during the period 1976-1986 served as the first offshore manager of the Trust Authority of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Her duties included, administering, supervising and registering international business companies, trust banks and insurance companies.

In March 1986, she launched her private law firm (Baptiste & Co. Law Firm Inc.), where she practiced extensively in international business company formations and registrations; family law; property and probate law; shipping; conveyances; adoptions; agreements; registration of foreign judgments; registration of trademarks; residence and work permits; domestic and commercial injunctions; landlord and tenant.

Aug. 2000 News Report

The St. Vincent-registered New Bank Ltd., an offshore company that recently lost its operating licence, has written to St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell, other ministers of government and senior civil servants demanding they repay loans and advances it said it made to them. The bank is also demanding to be reimbursed for financing offshore legislation in 1996, Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell said at a noon news conference Monday. Sir James denied having obtained loans or taken advances from the bank and said, in a reply to the company, that he was “unaware of any such request made to your bank or any undertaking given to reimburse your bank for any costs which it may have incurred in the preparation of (the offshore laws)”.

September 2000 News Report

A Miami-based lawyer for New Bank Ltd., an offshore bank that has taken the St. Vincent and the Grenadines government to court to have its revoked international banking licence restored, has written to the local lawyers for Finance Minister Arnhim Eustace alleging attempts to intimidate the bank. The letter dated Sept. 1 was sent to Police Commissioner Osborne Quow, acting director of public prosecution Dr Henry Browne, attorney-general Carl Joseph and Eustace’s lawyers of the law firm of Commissiong and Commissiong. It is in response to letters sent by Commissiong and Commissiong [SVG law firm] to Quow requesting that he ordered investigation into the bank and two of its employees who apparently signed letters sent to government ministers from the bank.

Sept. 29, 2000, News Report

One of the principals of New Bank, an offshore institution whose license was revoked by government last July, has denied trying to buy influence with the St. Vincent and the Grenadines government. In a press release dated Sept. 26 on the letterhead of one of the Nano’s banks whose license was revoked, Thierry Nano alleged that he was required to hand over money to obtain permits and licenses. Referring to recent media comments and speculation that the decision of New Bank to call in advances and loans allegedly made to government officials was because they were peeved government had failed to honour promises made in exchange for money, Nano said this was far from the truth. “What is true is that in the past we (or enterprises with which we are associated) have lent money to various Vincentian officials …,” Nano said.

Sept. 30, 2000, News Report by Duggie Joseph, Associated Press Writer

An offshore bank stripped of its license by the government has demanded the prime minister and six other officials return loans, gifts and campaign contributions it alleges it gave them in payoffs.

The French-born owner of New Bank and Nano and Sons, Thierry Nano, described his family as “victimized by a corrupt regime”.

“We want to help put an end to this rotten way of doing business in St. Vincent. We are going public with the truth, even where it hurts,” he said.

Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell in a statement denied he took any money from the bank and said it was retaliating because his government revoked the bank’s license in July.

His government acted as Caribbean and other international offshore financial centres come under pressure for secretive regulations and lax administration that critics charge attract money launderers and tax evaders.

St. Vincent, a former British colony, is among several countries and territories criticized by the United States for lax bank control. Congress is considering legislation to sanction countries that do not tighten loopholes.

The bank’s statement does not specify how much money is being sought.

Nano said Mitchell’s government acted against his bank because by 1996, bank officials made a stand and decided to stop meeting demands for loans and gifts.

Last month, the bank sent letters to the seven officials, including the industry regulator and the former police commissioner, giving them a month to repay “loans,” he said. When the month’s deadline expired this week, Nano went public.

Nov. 1, 2000, News Report

St. Vincent and the Grenadines has enlisted a regional central bank to help monitor its offshore banking sector.

The move is part of the nation’s attempts to get off an international money laundering blacklist.

Under an agreement signed earlier this week, the St Kitts-based Eastern Caribbean Central Bank will help oversee the licensing process for offshore banks in St. Vincent, said acting Offshore Inspector Collin Williams.

The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank oversees monetary policy for eight jurisdictions, including St. Vincent.

“We are saying we are putting our house in order,” Williams said.

The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force issued a blacklist last year of nations deemed uncooperative in the fight against money laundering.

In March 2001, Thierry Nano, whilst negotiating a deal, explained to a Swiss precious metal dealer, that he has an excellent relationship with Ralph Gonsalves, leader of the opposition party and most probably future prime minister of Saint Vincent.

Nano added that he and Gonsalves flew together to Dominica where Gonsalves introduced him to his old friend Rosie Douglas, prime minister of Dominica.

In March 2001, the Unity Labour Party swept the NDP from power and pledged reform. The prime Minister is Dr Ralph E Gonsalves, who is also the minister finance, and minister of national security.

In rapid time, a newly appointed ULP Government “offshore finance inspector” — once part of the Nanos’ legal team — decided that there were no legal grounds for withholding the Nano family’s banking licences. His finance inspectorate board agreed.

In June 2001, Nano, during the negotiating of a deal, told them he would introduce them to the PM Ralph Gonsalves, they declined.

On November 9, 2001, Thierry Nano claims he met with PM Ralph Gonsalves, who he said alerted him of bad intentions against him by both the British and Americans. Nano further said Gonsalves warned him that “they wish to frame you” and went on to mention “large cash transactions involving the yacht”.

In November 2001, four offshore bankers were arrested by United States law enforcement agencies and charged with money laundering.

Those arrested were Roy Malcolm West, a British citizen living in Barbados; Julien Giraud, of Dominica; Brian Boeger, of the United States; and Richard F. Downes, a British citizen living in Spain.

Two others charged with money laundering remained at large after warrants were issued but not executed. Warrants remained outstanding for Downes’ wife, British national Pamela Butson, and Thierry Nano, who has Belgian and St. Vincent citizenships.

At the time Thierry Nano was in St. Vincent.

Thierry Nano fled St. Vincent after being tipped off that the American authorities were on their way to arrest him.

Knowing of the US arrest warrant, the Vincentian authorities refused to act against Nano. St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves claimed that local authorities could not arrest Nano because money laundering was not an extraditable offence in SVG.

Nano decided to leave his hideout out in the Grenadines. He first flew from one of the smaller islands in the Grenadines to Martinique and then on to Nice in the French Riviera. He is now a fugitive wanted in the United States on two charges of money laundering.

The arrest warrant issued in the United States arrived in St. Vincent on November 22, 2001. Nano was said to have been warned by a member of the Vincentian Bar Association, an attorney, and politician. Nano left the islands at 6:30 p.m. three days later in a plane chartered from SVG Air.

All of the money laundering charges were filed at the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida in November. United Press International is not sure where Thierry Nano has been charged since the complaint is still sealed.

The undercover sting operations that were used to gather evidence against all except Nano included meetings in the United States, Dominica, Antigua and the United Kingdom, according to the agent.

In describing his investigations, the agent alleged that the bankers agreed to launder funds that he told them were the proceeds of investment fraud for commissions of between 5 and 10 per cent.

Part of the laundering process involved the provision of fake invoices to create the appearance that the funds were legitimate, according to the agent.

The flight from justice of Thierry Nano was perhaps considered more of a loss to individual attorneys and government ministers, than embarrassing to St. Vincent, whose governments and oppositions have a long history of close ties to the Nano family. Many politicians past and present according to Nano owed his bank considerable sums of money.

It was some time after Nano had fled, that St. Vincent’s Gonsalves-led legislature passed legislation allowing the extradition of citizens wanted for money laundering.

Nov. 27, 2001

St. Vincent’s 21-member parliament met to debate a money-laundering bill on Nov. 21. Why, asked the leader of the opposition, Arnhim Eustace, had the United States tried a week before to have Thierry Nano, one of the island’s leading offshore bankers, held for extradition on money-laundering charges? And why was Mr Nano allowed to leave the country on Nov. 18, chartering a small plane to the French overseas department of Martinique? Was the government really serious about reform?

Nov. 27, 2001, News Report

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves was forced to reveal in Parliament last Wednesday that the Caribbean offshore jurisdiction’s campaign to improve relations with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and secure removal from the multilateral organisation’s blacklist of ‘uncooperative’ countries has suffered a setback.

New legislation allowing other countries to extradite citizens on money laundering charges came just too late, the prime minister admitted following questioning from the opposition leader Arnhim Eustace, and allowed Thierry Nano, a joint French and St. Vincent citizen under investigation by the US authorities, to slip through the net.

According to the managing director of the country’s national carrier, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Air, M. Nano left on a chartered flight to Martinique following the issuance of a warrant for his extradition by the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida last week. However, lawyers for the offshore bank director have said that they do not know his whereabouts, and police in Martinique have also confessed ignorance.

This latest development could prove embarrassing for the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as although the licences of New Bank Ltd and Nano and Sons Ltd. were revoked last year [by the NDP government], they were later reinstated when the offshore banks supplied some requested documents [by the ULP government].

In 2003, Thierry Nano made a submission to a French Court in which he claimed that, as a result of fraudulent acts of American FBI agents, carried out notably by Susan Chainer, herself an FBI agent attached to the American Embassy in Barbados; by certain officials of the government of Saint Vincent among them [see page 7 para 1] Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister and minister of finance, as well as a debtor to the bank; and finally the liquidator, Marcus Wide, he suffered serious damages, not only material but also moral.

[Court Documents available]

By this complaint [see page 8 last Paragraph], he also named Marcis Wide, Susan Rushing Chainer, Ralph Gonsalves, and Louis Mitchell as defendants, on the same facts as those alleged against the principals and their accomplices, as well as against the state of Saint Vincent of which certain ministers are debtors of the bank. For further reference also see

Thierry Nano was arrested in France last month for offences of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering.

There is every possibility that a book written by Thierry Nano will now be published, naming all that took money from him in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Peter Binose

 

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].