Former diplomat Edson Augustus was recalled last week because he offered to help Vincentians in New York to obtain U.S. Permanent Resident Cards, commonly called “Green Cards”, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sen. Camillo Gonsalves told I-Witness News on Friday.
“The facts that we have to date indicate that Mr. Augustus was holding himself out as somebody who would be able to assist out-of-status Vincentians in New York with either expediting or facilitating applications for Green Cards and that he would do that for a fee,” Gonsalves told I-Witness News.
“That is it. There is nothing to do with passports, there is nothing to do with the sale of Green Cards, there’s nothing to do with the sale of passports, there is nothing to do with a ring, or a syndicate or anything like that. We have no information supporting that,” the minister further said, but noted that the Government is continuing its investigation into the former diplomat’s activities in New York.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Monday that it had recalled Augustus, former deputy consular general at the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consulate in New York, because of his involvement in “activities outside the scope of his employment and inimical to the interest of the Consulate General and the Government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.
Gonsalves noted to I-Witness News on Friday that the statement had indicated that the government was continuing its investigations.
“… we are not in a practice of speaking before we have marshaled all of the facts,” said Gonsalves, a former U.N. ambassador.
“Of course, our investigations continue. But as soon as we received confirmation of that fact — that he was holding himself out as somebody who could facilitate these processes — we decided to recall him.
“Why? Because it is not the business of the Consulate General of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to engage in immigration advising of that nature or to be an immigration lawyer for anybody or to hold themselves out as having influence over a process that we have no influence over,” the senator explained.
“None of it was done on Consul premises. It was done on his time, at his residence — but it is not something that the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines can countenance in our diplomatic representatives.”
Gonsalves said he could not say how long the investigation would last.
“We have received sufficient information to initiate a recall. We continue to investigate other claims that we hear, but some of them are so wild as to be ridiculous.
“The difficulty we have investigating claims involving out-of-status Vincentians in the United States is that, understandably, many of them are reluctant to come forward on the record.
“So, there are a lot of people who are muttering and whispering that they were done wrong by Mr. Augustus, but when you contact them officially, they say ‘I ain’t saying anything on the record because it might affect my current status.’
“So, the investigation, as you can anticipate, as you can imagine, will have some difficulties in speaking to people, who, by the very fact of their status, makes them reluctant to talk. But we are going as fast as can and as thoroughly as we can, investigating the credible claims against Mr. Augustus and sifting through the many incredible claims that were made,” Gonsalves further told I-Witness News.
A Vincentian woman, in New York, told I-Witness News recently that she paid Augustus US$7,000 after he promised to help her to obtain a “Green Card”.
She said she got the money back several months later after she suggested that she would go to a lawyer.