KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, CMC — The St. Vincent and the Grenadines government Wednesday denied a statement by the United States Department of Treasury that a former Iranian national whose activities are being closely monitored had acquired local citizenship.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told a news conference that Minister of Foreign Affairs Sen. Camillo Gonsalves “has been advised by me to inform the US State and Treasury Departments of these facts”.
He told reporters that “the records of the citizenship and residency department of the Office of the Prime Minister showed there are four Iranians by birth who are granted citizenship of St. Vincent and the Grenadines” during the period 1997-1998.
He said the citizenship granted in 1997 was to the 10-year-old son of a medical practitioner and his wife born in Bangladesh.
Gonsalves said that the medical doctor was employed at the hospital here and that the son is now a medical doctor now residing overseas while the other three “Vincentians of Iranian birth” are a 47 year-old barber, a 43-year-old mother and a 20 year-old son.
“Each of these four applications for citizenship of St. Vincent and the Grenadines was supported by references from reputable professionals in this country. Of these four Iranian-born citizens of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, (the) one (who) is a medical practitioner … is the only one of the four who currently has a valid passport of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Earlier this week, the Treasury Department said that Hossein Zeidi, 49, is among nine individuals and entities under various Iran-related authorities under surveillance for their “support of Iranian government sanctions evasion efforts and human rights-related abusers, including those engaged in censorship”.
It said that Zeidi holds a St. Kitts and Nevis passport, number RE0003553 as well as St. Vincent and the Grenadines citizenship and he carries the alias Hosein Zeidi and Hossein Mansour Zeidi. He has a United Arab Emirates (UAE) national identification number 444169.
The US Treasury Department gave no details as to how Zeidi had in his possession a St. Kitts-Nevis passport, but the twin island Federation provides citizenship to foreigners who provide significant investments to the island.
The Treasury Department said Zeidi was “responsible for converting foreign currency into US bank notes.
“The Iranian government contracted with Zeidi and Seyed Kamal Yasini to convert Iranian funds denominated in non-Iranian local currency into US dollars,” the Treasury Department said.
“To date, these individuals and their network have effected the delivery of hundreds of millions of dollars in US dollar bank notes to the Iranian government in violation of E.O. 13622,” it added.
But Prime Minister Gonsalves insisted that “none of these four Iranian-born citizens is the person who is referred to in a US Treasury Department bulletin as Hossein Zeidi otherwise known as Hossein Mansour Zeidi.
“None of them is this individual who it is alleged in the Treasury bulletin … to be an Iranian by birth, or who is an Iranian citizen and who holds citizenship from St. Kitts including a passport from St. Kitts which they have listed and the allegation that he is also a citizenship of St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.
Gonsalves said “our citizenship and passport record and data bases reveal that the allegation that he is a citizen of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is incorrect. He is also not a holder of a passport of St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.
Gonsalves said the alleged date of birth of Zeidi is Sept. 11, 1965 noting “this date of birth does not correspond to any of the dates of birth of the four Iranian born citizens of St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.
“The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines wishes to make it clear that it does not and cannot discriminate against any person in relation to the grant or withholding of citizenship of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on the basis of nationality or place of origin.
“The universally acknowledged qualifications for citizenship are present in our laws and are laid out in the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Citizenship Act,” Gonsalves said.
He said that unlike St. Kitts and Nevis and other Caribbean countries, his country “does not grant economic citizenship by whatever name it is called”.
He said the former government had instituted an honorary citizenship programme and “as everyone knows very early in the life of our administration, the law in relation to this programme was repealed and the programme of honorary or economic citizenship was discontinued”.