Part I: The Integrity Commission

Sandra Ferguson

Conflict of Interests, Integrity in Public Life and the People’s Business

 Part I:  THE INTEGRITY COMMISSION 

By Citizens in Defence of Grenada’s Lands and Heritage


1.         The Integrity Commission:

Act No. 24 of 2013 established an Integrity Commission in order to:-

      • ensure integrity in public life
      • obtain declaration of the assets, liabilities, income and interests in relation to property of persons in public life,
      • give effect to the provisions of the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption  and for matters

 

1.1.      Membership:

There are seven members of the Commission.  According to section 4 (3) of the Act, members of the integrity shall be persons of high integrity, capable of exercising competence, diligence, sound judgment, confidentiality and impartiality in fulfilling his or her duties pursuant to the provisions of the Act.

 

1.2.      Functions:

Among the functions of the   Integrity Commission are:

      • investigate the conduct of any person falling under the purview of the Commission which, in the opinion of the Commission, may be considered dishonest or conductive to corruption.
      • Examines the practices and procedures of public bodies. 

 

1.3.      Code of Conduct:

Schedule  VI of the Act sets out the Code of Conduct for members of the Integrity Commission.  Among the general principles are the following:

      • A person in public life shall not allow his or her private interest to conflict with his or her public position.  It shall be the responsibility of the person in public life to avoid such conflicts of interests whether real, potential or apparent.
      • A person in public life shall always conduct himself or herself in such a way that the public’s confidence and trust in the integrity, impartiality and effectiveness of the pubic service are preserved and enhanced.
      • Conflict of Interests:  A conflict of interest arises from a situation in which a person in public life has private interests which is such as to influence or appear to influence, the impartial and objective performance of his or her official duties.
      • Private Interests:  The private interest of a person in public life includes any advantage to himself or herself, to his or her family, close relatives, friends or organizations with whom he or she had had business for potential relations.  It also includes any liabilities whether financial or work relating thereto.
      • Personal Responsibility:  A person in public life has a personal responsibility to be alert to any actual or potential conflict of interests and to take steps to avoid such conflict.

 

1.4.      Current Membership of the Integrity Commission:

The seven members of the Integrity Commission are:

      • Chair – Retired Judge, Monica Joseph
      • Deputy Chair – Attorney-at-law, Anande Trotman-Joseph
      • Accountant, Mr. Rupert Agostini
      • Attorney-at-law, Daniella Williams-Mitchell
      • Mr. Robert Robinson
      • Ms. Oforiwa Augustine
      • Mr. Bertie Hill

 

This article takes a closer look at the appointment of the following three members of the Commission:-

      • Deputy Chair, Anande Trotman-Joseph
      • Mr. Rupert Agostini
      • Ms. Daniella Williams-Mitchell

 

 

2.         Deputy Chair, Anande Trotman- Joseph:

While the competence of Ms. Trotman-Joseph is not in question, there is cause to query  whether or not the private interests of Ms. Trotman-Joseph constitute a  conflict of interests and serve to undermine “the public’s confidence and trust in the integrity , impartiality and effectiveness of the public service”  that Ms. Trotman-Joseph is called upon to perform as a member of the Integrity Commission.  Among Ms. Trotman-Joseph’s private interests, current and past are the following:

      • Spouse:  Ms. Trotman Joseph is the spouse of the current President of the Senate, Dr. Lawrence Joseph. 
      • Citizenship by Investment Agent, CBI – 0004[1]:
        • Ms. Trotman-Joseph is a local agent of the Citizenship by Investment Programme, having been granted a licence of January 28th, 2014.  Ms. Trotman-Joseph advises, “I therefore provide professional services to persons wishing to receive economic citizenship to Grenada in accordance with the Laws of Grenada”.[2](our emphasis)
        • Agent:  The Citizenship by Investment Act advises that “an application for Citizenship by Investment or for Permanent Residence by Investment shall only be submitted by an Agent who is the holder of an Agent’s licence issued under this Act”.
        • Public Body:  The Citizen by Investment Committee has been established by an act of Parliament, Act No. 15 of 2013.  That makes it a public body by the definition of the Act which has established the Integrity Commission.  A function of the Integrity Commission to examine the practices and procedures of public bodies.
        • How does Ms. Trotman-Joseph  reconcile providing professional services to persons who “wish to receive economic citizenship” and therefore have to apply to the Citizenship by Investment Committee when the Integrity Commission , of which she is Deputy Chair, also “examines the practices and procedures of public bodies” under the Integrity in Public Life Act. 
      • Other Professional Interests
        • Counsel for Citizenship by Investment Agent, Peter DeSavary[3]The firm of Joseph & Joseph, of which Ms. Trotman-Joseph is a principal, was played a leading role as part of the defence team representing the interests of Ambassador Peter DeSavary in a suit[4] brought by an English couple who invested in his Mt. Cinnamon development in 2007-2008.  Amb. DeSavary is one Grenada’s two agents to market the Citizenship by Investment Programme abroad.  One should note that the judgment’s description of Amb. DeSavary was not at all flattering.  His evidence was described as “ at best tenuous and inconsistent” and it was also noted that he had failed to meet his contractual obligations.
        • Century Development Ltd.:  Is Ms. Trotman-Joseph still associated Century Development Ltd.,( company no. 102 of 2003) a group of mostly Irish  developers of Calivigny Cove[5].  She was the Company Secretary.  Who is/was the Managing Director, Mr. James McArdle?

 

2.1.        Multiple Roles and Interests:

Wikipedia[6] provides further clarification and guidance on the issue of conflict of interests:-

      • A conflict of interest occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation.  It is “a set of circumstances that creates a risk that professional judgment or actions regarding a primary interest will be unduly influenced by a secondary interest”.
      • The presence of a conflict of interest is independent of the occurrence of impropriety.
      • Primary interest refers to “the principal goals of the profession or activity such as the protection of clients………………the duties of public office.”
      • Secondary interests are not only financial gain ………………, the wish do favours for families and friends, but conflict of interests rules usually focus on financial relationships.
      • Offering professional services as a local passport agent or legal counsel can hardly qualify as secondary interests.  Ms. Trotman-Joseph is an attorney-at-law.  In this situation, which are Ms. Trotman-Joseph’s primary interests and her secondary interests?  Is it her public duties as a member of the Integrity Commission or is it her professional duties to those applying for citizenship and residence under the Citizenship by Investment Programme?

 

2.2.      Conclusion:

A conflict of interest:-

      • Is a situation in which an individual who is in a position of trust, has competing professional or personal interests.  Such competing interests can make it difficult to fulfill his or her duties impartially.
      • exists even if no unethical or improper act results.  A conflict of interests can create an appearance of impropriety that can undermine confidence in the individual/organisation, the process, and the profession.

 

Notwithstanding, Ms. Anande Trotman-Joseph’s protestations in her press release[7],  it seems very clear that Ms. Anande Trotman-Joseph’s multiple roles and interests constitute a conflict of interests and undermining confidence in her and in the Integrity Commission of which she is the Deputy Chair.

 

3.         Rupert Agostini:

Mr. Rupert Agostini is a member of Integrity Commission.  He is also a member of the Citizenship by Investment CommitteeIt is startling that Mr. Rupert Agostini should be a member of either of these entities given his past performance in public life as a member of the Board of Directors of the disgraced Grenada International Financial Services Authority (GIFSA) which was responsible for the oversight and regulation of Grenada’s offshore banking sector.

 

3.1.      Offshore Banking Fraud and GIFSA:

Among the key players in the offshore banking fraud  which was rolled out in Grenada were the following:- Gilbert Zeigler a.k.a. Van Brink, Rita L. Regale, Douglas C. Ferguson, Robert J. Skirving and Laurent E. Barnabe a.k.a Larry Barnabe.

 

3.1.1.   Sentencing Memorandum:

Significant information about the offshore banking fraud which took place in Grenada under the watch of the Grenada International Financial Services Authority is contained in the Sentencing Memorandum, United States District Court, District of Oregon CR-01-321-KI, United States of America vs. Rita L. Regale, Douglas C. Ferguson, Robert J. Skirving and Laurent E. Barnabe a.k.a Larry Barnabe. Van Brink did not stand trial.  He died in a US prison awaiting trial.

 

3.1.1.1             Scheme to Defraud:

The sentencing memorandum describes the Scheme to Defraud:-

      • Offshore Banks and Subsidiaries:  Between 1996 and 2000, the defendants set up, marketed and operated a series of offshore “banks” called Fidelity International Bank(FIB), First International Bank of Grenada (FIBG) and 13 subsidiary banks of FIBG.  Barnabe helped set up the sub-banks.  The sub-banks were shams.  In order to meet their capitalization requirements, they purported to have huge sums on deposit at First Bank which they did not.
      • Ponzi Scheme:  The Bank was a massive Ponzi Scheme which defrauded thousands of investors of more than $170 million.

 

3.1.1.2.            Board of Directors, GIFSA:

3.1.1.2.1.         Payments to Mr. Agostini:

      • The Government of Grenada required the sub-banks to have an accountant.  Barnabe paid Rupert Agostini $2,500 per sub-bank to use his name as an accountant but Agostini never did any accounting work for any of the banks[8].
      • Rupert Agostini, the Sub-bank’s accountant and a member of the GIFSA received a payment of $60,000 from an account set up in Cap Bank ( by Barnabe and Regale)  in the name of Destiny Group from $200,000 transferred from FIBG.  Agostini testified that the Destiny Group was involved in setting up a free trade zone in Grenada[9].

 

3.1.1.2.2.         Oversight:

Under Mr. Agostini’s watch as a member of the board of directors of GIFSA:

      • the First International Bank and its sub-banks never met its capitalization requirements and never had audits.[10]
      • The Chief Regulator also lied to the Federal Bureau of Investigation stating that the FIBG was in good standing and in compliance with the law” and lied to a journalist investigating the FIBG stating that the its was “operating wholly within the law”[11].

 

3.2.      Integrity Commission:

The Integrity Commission was set up to ensure integrity in public life.  It would seem that the conduct of Mr. Agostini, as a member of GIFSA should disbar him from being even considered to be a member of the Integrity Commission.

 

3.3.      Citizenship by Investment Committee:

The Act to establish the Citizenship by Investment Committee advises that the Committee shall be comprised of persons of integrity who are qualified and have the necessary experience and capacity in matters relating to law, finance, trade, urban development and the environmental studies.

 

3.4.      Conflict of Interests:

      • Does Mr. Agostini’s membership of both the Integrity Commission and the Citizenship by Investment Committee constitute a conflict of interests?
      • How does Mr. Agostini reconcile his functions as a member of the Integrity Commission to examine the practices and procedures of public bodies with being a member of this public body to be examined by the Integrity Commission.

 

3.5.      Conclusion:

      • Mr. Agostini is an unsuitable to be a member of both the Integrity Commission and the Citizenship by Investment Committee.
      • His membership of both entities also constitute a conflict of interest.

 


[1] Government Gazette, Thursday February 6, 2014 – (No. 8)   pg. 73

[2]Defamatory statements are false” in The New Today, edition of Friday March 13, 2014, pg. 15

[3] Mount Cinnamon Resort and Private Beach Club, Grenada Citizenship by Investment

[4] Suit No. GDAHCV2010/0252 in the Supreme Court of Grenada and the West Indies Associated States

[5] GIDC Press Release, Official Signing of the Investment Agreement between the Government of Grenada and Century Development Ltd., January 28th, 2008

[7]Defamatory statements are false” in The New Today, edition of Friday March 13, 2014, pg. 15

[8] Pg. 23, Sentencing Memorandum, United States District Court, District of Oregon CR-01-321-KI, United States of America vs. Rita L. Regale, Douglas C. Ferguson, Robert J. Skirving and Laurent E. Barnabe a.k.a Larry Barnabe.

[9] Pg. 25, Ibid 25

[10] Pg. 26, Ibid

[11] Ibid

CDGLH
CONFLICT OF INTERESTS AND THE PEOPLE’S BUSINESS
The Integrity Commission

Compiled by Sandra C.A. Ferguson
March 22, 2014

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