Keeping an Eye On The People’s Business: New Dawn 2017 Conference

Sandra Ferguson

Embassy of Grenada to the Russian Federation – My Caribbean – Star Capital Connection – My Caribbean – Chimera – Grenada Co-operative Nutmeg Association Connection

by Sandra Ferguson

1. Russia/Eurasia Caribbean Conference:

Described as an economic, media and academic forum, the Russia/Eurasia Caribbean Conference took place in Grenada, at the Radisson Beach Resort, from 1-3 November (ref. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/a-new-dawn-2017-first-ever-joint-russiaeurasia-caribbean-forum-taking-place-in-grenada-300532364.html).

1.1. Selected Speakers and Participants:

Among the selected speakers and participants who were profiled in the promotional information on the conference website[1], A New Dawn for All 2017, were the following:

    • Hon Nickolas Steele, Minister of International Business
    • Hon Alexandra Otway, MP for South St George. Prior to her resignation as minister, she was Minister of Implementation with responsibility for the Citizenship by Investment Programme.
    • Dr Sergey Brilev[2], Russian TV presenter, writer and public figure. Deputy Director of the Rossiya TV channel for special informational projects, President of the Bering-Bellingshausen Institute for Both Americas (Montevideo), member of the Praesidium of the Foreign and Defence Policy Council (Moscow),
    • HE Oleg Firer, Grenada’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Grenada to the Russian Federation – http://grenadaembassy.ru/embassy/ambassador/.
    • Dr Elena Sokolova, Area Manager of Sandals and Beaches Resorts in Eastern Europe, in charge of the office in Moscow.
    • Governor Timothy Antoine, Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank
    • Dr Raphael Stephen, Fiscal Scientist and Director of the Grenada Postal Corporation
    • Paula La Touche-Keller, Owner/Broker of Century 21, a real estate company
    • Peter Wilding[3], Director of Influence Group (United Kingdom)
    • Other Participants: Other participants included Chetwynd RF Bowling, Honorary Consul of Jamaica; HE Nikolay Smirnov Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Guyana, Barbados, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Vincent & The Grenadines.

Based on information in the schedule[4], there was a 1-day tour of the island on Thursday, 2 November and a one-day forum on Friday, 3 November. The following were the moderators of presentations/panels on the topics/themes:

    • Hon Nickolas Steele: Why do we need each other? Bilateral Relations
    • Dr Sergey Brilev: Tomorrow’s world. Is there a common view?
    • HE Oleg Firer: New Dawn: Tech Horizons

1.2. Sponsors:

Among the sponsors of this forum were: Embassy of the Grenada to the Russian Federation; My Caribbean; Star Development; Chimera; Century 21; Global Petroleum Group; Sandals; Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation; Skolkovo; Hermes Bank; the Gorchabov Fund.

1.3. Media Participants:

The website identified the following specially Caribbean media participants: THG Network International (St Kitts and Nevis); Antigua Chronicle; The Voice from St Lucia; Newsroom, Georgetown, Guyana.

1.4. New Dawn 2017:

Courtesy an article in the Antigua Chronicle’s[5] written by its representative to the event, I have gleaned the following:

    • Who Attended: “Regional journalists, Russian academia, tech and financial businessmen from Russia, USA and the UK converged in Grenada under the patronage of the Grenadian Government and Russian embassy.”
    • Bilateral Relations: Making reference to the Russian panellists, the reporter noted that the panellists “….spoke openly on the need for Grenada and the rest of the region to look at international relations on a more global scale as opposed to playing geo-politics. Bilateral Relations is what the region depends on for every aspect of our small economies, whether it be tourism, agriculture or technology” (my emphasis).
    • Russian Technological Institutions in Grenada: David Lord, the Deputy Programme Manager of CARICOM Secretariat observed that there were plans for Russian technological institutions in Grenada, which would be used as a springboard for the other islands to also benefit.
    • Tech Horizons: Tech Horizons, a new initiative to be introduced in Grenada was a focal point of presentations and discussions during the sessions.
    • Technological and Innovative Hub in the Caribbean: HE Oleg Firer advised that Grenada would be a technological and innovation hub in the region.
    • Skolkovo Foundation, Partnerships and Start-up Companies: The representative of Skolkovo Foundation, Kirill Kaem, presented on his foundation’s mandate to work on developing partnerships and support of start-up companies which could and would benefit Grenada and the wider region.
    • Innovation Centre and Biomedical Start-ups: The Skolkovo Foundation’s representative identified biomedical technology clusters as the priority. He advised that identified “their work in Grenada would begin by creating an innovation centre with training and development access.”
    • What the Caribbean Offers: Dr Sergey Brilev, who conceptualised the forum observed that besides its 16 million people, the Caribbean also offered voting power in international organisations such as the UN and our diverse economies (my emphasis).

1.5. Observations and Comments:

    • Economic, Academic and Media Forum: If this was a Caribbean “economic, academic and media forum,” notably absent were any speakers from the regional university, The University of the West Indies, and from the St George’s University. Was there official participation from regional institutions such as the Caribbean Development Bank or the OECS Commission?
    • Grenada Attendance/Participation: And what about Grenada? Did the private sector participate? Was the media invited? Except for the reference in the New Today editorial that was aired on 12 November edition of ‘Sundays with George Grant,’ I have not seen any reference to this forum in the print or electronic media or even on the Government Information Service.
    • Normally, when a country is hosting an international event, there is a lot of hype and profile. The public is usually bombarded with information and often there are spaces for public attendance and participation. Literally everyone who was paying attention knew that the State of Tourism and Investment Conference was being held in Grenada in October and the public was invited to attend certain sessions. In contrast, this New Dawn for All 2017 Russia/Eurasian Caribbean conference seems to have had very little, if any local media coverage and local participation. Why the SECRECY and EXCLUSION?

1.5.1. A Citizenship by Investment Special Interests Forum:

It is reasonable to conclude that the forum was a special interests forum – the investment interests of relatively ‘newly minted citizens’ and a ‘special project’ by Russian powers that be – how could the Russian Federation cultivate and assert its presence and influence in the debt-burdened, cash-strapped region.

2. Sponsors and Connections:

A brief look at some of the sponsors of the New Dawn 2017 event revealed some very interesting connections.

2.1. Embassy of Grenada to the Russian Federation:

Grenada resumed diplomatic relations with Russian Federation in 2002. However, an embassy was only established in April 2017. One, Oleg Firer, was named as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.[6]

Based on Wikipedia information[7], Oleg Firer was born in Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union) of Jewish parents who migrated to the USA when he was 12 years old. He is recognised for his entrepreneurial acumen and well-known for mergers and acquisitions. He is the recipient of many business recognition and awards, among them:

    • Forbes Award – 5 Incredible Entrepreneurs
    • Business Leader Magazine, South Florida – Top Entrepreneurs Award
    • Business Journal’s Forty Under Forty Award
    • Dealmaker of the Year Award (Finance Monthly), January 2014

Among his business interests are the following:

    • Net Element Inc[8]: mobile payments, payment services, financial services
    • Star Capital Management LLC[9]: a private venture capital firm; Firer is named as Chairman and Managing Partner.
    • Star Development Limited[10]; “is a private investment and development company focused on development of unique properties in Grenada and the selected emerging markets.” Oleg Firer is a Director.
    • Star TeleMed: StarTeleMed is a leading telehealth provider of online and on-demand healthcare delivery services and software that benefits patients, hospitals and medical professionals. HE is a Board Member, Star TeleMed[11]. Its Grenada address is Star Management Limited, Unit 12, Steele’s Commercial Complex, Grand Anse.

2.1.1. Embassy of Grenada – My Caribbean Connection:

My Caribbean was listed as a sponsor of the New Dawn 2017 forum. According to the website[12]:

    • Established in 2017: My Caribbean was established in 2017 under the supervision of the Grenada Embassy to the Russian Federation. It has offices in Grenada and Russia.
    • Trade Centre to Promote Bilateral Trade: “My Caribbean trade centre has been established to promote bilateral trade between the Caribbean, Russian and Eurasian markets. The main idea of the centre is to bring together the efforts of all export-oriented producers with a focus on the most efficient and wide integration into the new foreign markets.”
    • Trade in Caribbean Food Products: “My Caribbean imports and trades a wide variety of fine food products from all over the Caribbean. We pride ourselves on a long history of integrity and services and have built our reputation by working with only the finest suppliers.”
      • Comment: It is unclear what ‘long history’ is being referenced since the company was only established in 2017.

2.1.1.1. Directors:

The Directors of My Caribbean are:

    • HE Oleg Firer, Advisor, Director
    • Pavel Krotov, General Director
    • Kemal Nicholson, Director; He is the First Secretary of Grenada Embassy to Russian Federation
    • Olinga Mitchell[13], Managing Partner of Chimera 

2.1.1.2. My Caribbean Partners:

According to the website, “…My Caribbean Partner Programme allows qualified partners to distribute our selected products and services to both commercial and public-sector clients.” (my emphasis). Listed partners are:

2.1.1.2.1. Star Capital:

    • What it Star Capital: According to its website[14], Star Capital is “a private investment and advisory firm focused on transforming high potential companies into definitive market leaders. Through a combination of capital and operational expertise, we help our companies deliver innovative offerings for high growth markets…’
    • HE Oleg Firer: HE Oleg Firer is identified as the Managing Partner and Chairman.[15]
    • Investors: Star Capital describes its mission as being “to generate superior investment returns to our selected pool of investors.” It groups its investors into the following categories: High net worth individuals; Family Offices; Institutional Investors; Pension Fund.
    • Businesses: Star Capital lists its businesses as: venture capital; private equity; real estate; financial advisory; EB5 investments (a US Immigrant Investor Programme to encourage foreign investment in US businesses).
    • Contacts: The website lists Star Capital offices in Puerto Rico (listed as the international headquarters), New York; USA Headquarters in Miami; United Kingdom, Ukraine; Russia; United Arab Emirates; Grenada.

2.1.1.2.2. Star Capital Management Limited, Grenada[16]

    • The Grenada contact of Star Capital mentions 2 companies – Star Capital Management Limited, Grenada and Star Development.
    • Address: Its address is named as Steele’s Commercial Complex, Grand Anse.
    • Star Capital Management is focused on investments into the growing market of Grenada and the CARICOM Community.
    • Star Development’s mission is to create a property investments and development company in Grenada focused on hospitality, infrastructure and municipality improvement projects with the objectives to beautify Grenada and promote economic growth through innovation and development.
    • Managing Partner: One, Oleg Khomenko, is named as the Managing Partner.

2.2. Star Development Grenada:

    • What is Star Development Grenada? ‘Star Development Limited’ (Star Development) is a private investment and development company focused on development of unique properties in Grenada and the selected emerging markets… The company’s strategy is based on investing, developing and managing properties with the intent of generating returns by enhancing each development through design, development and sustainability.
    • Team: Oleg Khomenko is named as co-founder and managing partner. HE Oleg Firer is named as a director.
    • Partners: The following are named as partners: Pure Grenada; Star Capital; ISLA[17], Managing Director, Craig Keller; HVS: //www.hvs.com; Century 21[18]. Century 21 is a real estate company. Among its services are services re real estate transactions to persons interested in purchasing property under the citizenship by investment programme

2.3. Chimera:

    • Managing Partner: Olinga Mitchell[19] is the Managing Partner of Chimera International, which focuses on delivering high quality, difficult to procure spices, herbs and organic products from the Caribbean region.
    • Address: It has an address in the Netherlands.
    • Website[20]: The information presented on the website can be described as sparse – an address in the Netherlands, a phone number, e-mail, a product guide and some photos. There is no About Us information.
    • Major Products:  The major products distributed are listed as nutmeg and cocoa.
    • 3. Points to Ponder:

3.1.: New Dawn 2017:

    • Absence of Transparency and Exclusion: Just like the Blue Investment Conference in May 2016, another significant event, featuring discussions about the future of Grenada’s ‘development’ took place without the knowledge or involvement of significant Grenadian interests.
    • Whose Interests: The absence of significant Grenadian participation was evident. According to the article in the Antiguan Chronicle, “Russian academia, tech and financial businessmen from Russia, USA and the UK converged in Grenada….”
    • Technological Hub and Innovation Centre and Biomedical Clusters: It is useful to be reminded of the following and to ask whether there is a relationship in respect of information that was shared in January 2017 ‘national consultation’ on ‘Blue Economy.’
    • Blue Innovation Institute: Ambassador Angus Friday had advised that Grenada was interested in the setting up of a Blue Innovation Institute. According to Ambassador Friday, Grenada would become the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Blue Growth. The institute would bring together solutions for sustainability and financing. It would support the development of a number of private sector companies and entrepreneurs.
    • Bio-medical Clusters: He also spoke of the potential for development of biomedicines from the marine environment, eg an HIV retroviral drug was made from Caribbean sponges. This also seemed to be a major interest in respect of the declaration of Marine Protected Areas right around Grenada.

3.2. Embassy of Grenada to the Russian Federation:

    • HE Oleg Firer: Under what circumstances and arrangements did HE become a Grenadian citizen and Ambassador?
    • Business Interests: What are the business arrangements/agreements that Grenada has with HE in the discharge of his duties as Ambassador?
    • My Caribbean: It is desirable that ambassadors should facilitate trade and investment opportunities on behalf of the country that they serve. What are the business arrangements in respect of this company? Who are the shareholders of the company? Who funds it? And how are the public interests protected? To whom does HE Firer report on the performance of this company and how are returns, when and if any, to be managed and utilised?
    • Public Interests vs. Private Interests: Can someone versed in the norms and procedures of international diplomatic representation please explain to we shareholders of Grenada plc where and how does one draw the line between public and private interests and representation, particularly by those who are NOT bona fide citizens of Grenada, notwithstanding being holder of a ‘Grenadian passport of convenience?’
    • The Star Capital Family: This business entity and its related companies are worth understanding — the services they offer, the customers they service, the businesses in which they are involved. I find it all dizzyingly convoluted — Star Capital Fund, Star Capital Management, Star Development Grenada. But it would appear that among the family of companies the services include construction and other support to real estate tourism, providing venture capital for startups and other financial services.

3.3. Chimera and the GCNA:

    • Politically Exposed Person: A family member of the Rt Hon Prime Minister and Minister of Finance is the managing partner of this firm, located in the Netherlands. It is involved in the distribution of spices and food products in Europe and lists its major products as nutmeg and cocoa.
    • Chimera-GCNA Arrangements: What Arrangements does GCNA have with Chimera? And how are these arrangements benefitting the sector as a whole and farmers in particular?
    • Amendments to the Nutmeg and Cocoa Industry Ordinances: It is useful to recall that earlier this year, the Ministry of Agriculture proposed amendments to both the Nutmeg and Cocoa Industry Ordinances in keeping with its commitments under the IMF Structural Adjustment Programme to liberalise certain sectors, including the nutmeg and cocoa sectors, to boost private sector participation and expand capacity. The focus of liberalisation is dismantling the monopoly buyer position of both associations. Will those amendments give any advantage to Chimera?

3.4. Whose New Dawn:

We the shareholders of Grenada plc must also ask ourselves whether or not our Company, Grenada, has already been sold, paid for and packaged, waiting to be delivered at the ‘right moment’ to cash-rich ‘investors’?

Russian interests are no doubt playing on the sentimentality of those with links to the 1979 revolution which enthusiasts/supporters described as a new dawn for Grenada and with which the Soviet Union was then a significant ally. Things have changed drastically both in Russia and Grenada. The question that we the shareholders of Grenada must ask ourselves about the New Dawn 2017 is WHOSE NEW DAWN?


References:

[1] http://dawn.gd/

[2] http://dawn.gd/speaker/sergey-brilev

[3] http://dawn.gd/speaker/peter-wilding

[4] http://dawn.gd/#schedules

[5] https://antiguachronicle.net/russia-in-the-caribbean-a-new-dawn-first-ever-joint-russianeurasian-caribbean-economic-media-and-academic-forum/

[6] http://grenadaembassy.ru/embassy/ambassador/

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oleg_Firer 1/

[8] http://www.netelement.com

[9] https://www.bloomberg.com/profiles/companies/1110474D:US-star-capital-management-llc

[10] http://stardevelopment.gd/

[11] https://www.linkedin.com/in/ofirer

[12] http://mycaribbean.ru

[13] Son of Prime Minister, Dr Keith Mitchell

[14] http://www.starcapitalfund.com/

[15] http://www.starcapitalfund.com/about-us.asp#team

[16] http://stardevelopment.gd

[17] http://www.islaconstruction.com/

[18] https://c21grenada.com/en/

[19] http://mycaribbean.ru/?page_id=72015

[20] http://chimera-spice.nl/

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