OCCRP report on Dominica raises concern about accuracy

OCCRP report on Dominica raises concern about accuracy

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The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) has raised allegations of human rights abuses against former Afghan Intelligence Chief Asadullah Khalid in one of their recent reports.

The allegations added a new layer of complexity to the political landscape, presenting great relations between Khalid with the United States during his tenure in the Afghan government. Notably, the depth of the ties of Khalid with the American leadership has come to light after his characterization in the OCCRP’s report.

The intimate relationship between the two has been marked by the visit of former U.S. President Barack Obama to the Virginia hospital in 2012. However, the report has lacked a significant aspect of their relations, raising questions on its neutrality.

The report has consisted of an incomplete portrayal of Khalid’s associations, putting curtains on the true facts.

Notably, the first contact between Khalid and U.S. leadership was established in the late 1990s. During this period, he was serving as a member of the anti-Taliban resistance and sharing close ties with the CIA.

Khalid was also considered a key figure in the US-led effort to stabilize Afghanistan. He also established himself as a trusted ally of the U.S. government for many years.

However, the report of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project was insufficient to provide clear and full details of Khaldi’s close relations with the U.S. while focusing on the Dominica citizenship by Investment Programme.

Ironically, the report considered the U.S. as “critics of the CBI programmes”, which have a great relationship with a man who was granted Dominican citizenship. Even after getting accused of “human rights violation”, he was never “charged” in a court of law formally.

As per the further revelations of OCCRP, around 7,7,000 individuals were granted Dominican citizenship since 2007. The numbers encompassed the individuals who availed citizenship through the CBI Programme and who achieved citizenship through marriage and various other means.

In 7,7000, the OCCRP has referred 26 individuals guilty of corruption or crime. At the time when they availed of Dominican citizenship, there were no criminal accounts recorded of some of the 26 individuals.

Along with that, the report has also forgotten to mention the 260 citizenships which have been revoked by Dominica due to the concealment of ‘material facts’ by the applicants in their original submissions.

As per the reports, the 26 individuals would be covered among those whose citizenship was revoked. The entire scenario has raised questions on the authenticity and accuracy of the findings of the report.

Besides this, digging dip into the report, it was mentioned that Dominica has made it mandatory interviews for applicants applying for citizenship until July 2023. The revelation has lacked the accuracy of the facts.

As a matter of fact, Dominica emerged as the very first nation to mandate the interview process for the CBI applicants in July 2023. Hence, the misleading representation of the CBI Programme of Dominica highlighted the potholes within the report and made it necessary for the process of cross-checking.

While sticking to their paper format which is a long-standing tradition in the Caribbean, Dominica has provided clarity on the names of individuals who obtained citizenship. In the transparent approach, the public can easily access these records from the archives and libraries of the country.

The revelations of the report also added that the people living in oppressive environment find CBI programmes similar to Dominica a great way of the security of life. OCCRP noted that the legal rights of granting citizenship have always been in the hands of the government, and people living under oppressive regimes can obtain second citizenship for the security of life.

The accuracy of the report has also been challenged by allegations stemming from local media, particularly by Associates Times.

In this local media, the alleged chat images between an opposition UWP worker, Trevor Tossy Johnson and representatives from international media organizations, specifically OCCRP, have been unveiled. In the chat, Johnson was also involved in communication with the international media group.

These revelations have raised suspicions that certain individuals had prior knowledge of the international journalists’ intent to compile a story on Dominica’s CBI programme. The implications have put the authenticity and accuracy of the report in a dilemma, raising doubt about its impartial approach.

The report seems to be influenced by the approach of the opposition UWP while criticizing Prime Minister Dr Roosevelt Skerrit. Ironically, similar allegations against the Prime Minister have also come from the opposition. As per the OCCRP, the Prime Minister illegally used the funds of the Citizenship by Investment Programme, coinciding with the claims of the UWP.

However, the allegations were never put forth on the basis of concrete evidence and true facts. Additionally, the report has also referred to Lennox Linton as a “Prominent Opposition Leader”, again ignoring the true facts.

The report of Al-Jazeera has consisted of a contradictory approach towards this notion as it has previously exposed Linton in a documentary on the CBI Programme. The report revealed that Linton had signed a document that promised to provide a diplomatic passport of Dominica in exchange for election funding.

With their discrepancies, the omission of the report has added weight to the narrative put forth by Associates Times. It stood on the claims, referring to opposition as the primary source for the OCCRP.

While showcasing one-sided points, the report has neglected the truth, aiming to disseminate misinformation against the Prime Minister.

The allegations of the opposition leader Lennox Linton have been evidently refused by the Integrity Commission’s declaration, stating that there is a paucity of proof. The report has created a dire need for cross-referencing and well-sourced journalism.

The report has also talked about some positive factors of Dominica’s citizenship by investment programme. It has lauded the country on its careful usage of funds for the development of the country.

“Revenues – estimated at more than $1bn since 2009 – have become the main source of income for the Dominican government, helping to fund schools, healthcare and other public services,” added the OCCRP report.

The transparency related to the programme has also become part of the research of the OCCPR, stating that the name of the applicants is available in the public domain. It also lauded the efforts of the government to improve transparency through the Government Accountability Project in 2021.

“Last year, the Government Accountability Project took action to improve transparency. It viewed dozens of gazettes from libraries, private collections and the University of the West Indies in Jamaica and drew up a list of every naturalized citizen from 2007 to 2022,”.

The OCCRP also asserted that these programmes are the perfect platform for attaining security in life. The robust vetting process has also been acknowledged by the report.

“If they pass the screening process, investors might be approved within three months of paying these fees,”.

“Dominica’s citizenship-by-investment regulations rule out granting citizenship to people who have “a criminal record other than in respect to a minor offence” are subject to “a criminal investigation of which he was aware or ought to have been aware,” who pose “a potential security risk to Dominica or to any other country,” or have been involved in “any activity likely to bring disrepute to Dominica,” the report mentioned.

The report asserted that third-party due diligence firms are involved in the multi-layered vetting process. It also outlined the rigorous measures adopted by Dominica in strengthening due diligence.

“Applicants from certain countries have faced restrictions, including North Korea, Sudan — and, following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year — Russia and Belarus. The move against Russian and Belarusian applicants was welcomed by the U.S. State Department. A spokesperson told reporters the department is “pleased with Dominica’s efforts to increase security and due diligence” surrounding the passport program,” it mentioned.

Besides this, Christian Henrik Nesheim said that after months of investigations into the tens of thousands of citizenships historically granted by Dominica, the Guardian found:

– 2 individuals who had “allegations” (no convictions or even trials) against them;
– 3 individuals who obtained citizenship many years BEFORE becoming wanted men.
– A single individual who had a prior conviction and therefore should not have received citizenship in Dominica – 19 years ago.
He further asserted that in other words, the investigative reporters found ONE legitimate oversight from among a selection of tens of thousands, and it’s from two decades ago.
“The Guardian, please try running a similar investigation on the 827,000 people who received EU citizenship in ordinary ways in 2021 and see if you find the same infinitesimal fraction of criminals,”said Nesheim.