Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has defended his decision to grant citizenship, more than a decade ago, to a Hungary-born man who has now been indicted in the United States as part of an alleged US$50 million fraud scheme.
Naturalised Vincentian Adrian Baron, 63, St. Vincent-born Linda Bullock, 57, along with Loyal Bank, an off-shore bank with offices in Budapest, Hungary and SVG; and Loyal Agency and Trust Corp. (“Loyal Agency”), an off-shore management company located in SVG have been indicted in New York.
Prosecutors say they are among six individuals and four corporate defendants that proposed that an undercover law enforcement agent purchase a Pablo Picasso painting to launder fraudulent profits from a stock manipulation scheme.
“Just by the way, Baron was granted citizenship after he was here eight or nine years,” Gonsalves, who has ministerial responsibilities for granting non-automatic citizenship, said when asked to comment about the indictment.
“I don’t want to — you know I never go into individual persons’ situation for citizenship, but you can rest assured that once citizenship is granted there would have been the requisite due diligence and everything, in the normal way.
“And as you are aware, under the law, if you are here for five years and you have made an important contribution, economic, social, plus you understand what the citizenship is, you can read and speak the English language with proficiency, that you don’t have any record.
“And then there is the alternative, the straight seven years naturalisation. So I put that information in the mix. In other words, dealt with in accordance with the law.”
Gonsalves said that Baron was taken into custody in Hungary on March 3.
Gonsalves said that his government understands that Baron would remain in custody for 60 days as he awaits the decision of the ministry of justice in Hungary regarding extradition to the United States.
The prime minister said his government does not know of any request for an extradition for anyone from SVG.