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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06BRIDGETOWN1255 2006-07-18 18:54:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bridgetown
Cable title:  

GRENADA PRIME MINISTERIAL CORRUPTION INQUIRY

Tags:   PGOV PINR PREL KCRM GJ XL 
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DE RUEHWN #1255/01 1991854
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P 181854Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2949
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
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RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J5 MIAMI FL
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L BRIDGETOWN 001255 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/17/2016
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL KCRM GJ XL
SUBJECT: GRENADA PRIME MINISTERIAL CORRUPTION INQUIRY
STALLED

REF: BRIDGETOWN 429

Classified By: Poloff Michael Kelleher for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).



1. (C) Summary: The investigation into allegations of
corruption against Grenada Prime Minister Keith Mitchell is
stalled and may die quietly. The Commission of Inquiry,
which was charged with investigating a claim that Mitchell
accepted a suitcase containing US$500,000 in exchange for
granting diplomatic status to an unsavory international
businessman, has moved slowly and is now delayed indefinitely
because of legal wrangling. When, or even if, the
investigation will move forward remains uncertain,
particularly after both the PM and his top legal advisor
publicly declared the ostensibly independent inquiry to be
dead. The one certainty appears to be that the Government
had no plan to conduct a serious investigation and hopes that
the matter will fade away before Grenada's next election.
End summary.



--------------------------


Investigation Stalled


--------------------------





2. (U) The Commission of Inquiry investigating allegations of
corruption against Grenada PM Keith Mitchell has stalled and
may be delayed indefinitely. Since the Commission was formed
in August 2004, it has sat for only several days in June 2005
to hear testimony from a handful of witnesses involved with
the PM's trip abroad in 2000 when he allegedly accepted a
bribe of US$500,000 to name businessman Eric Resteiner a
Grenada diplomat. (Note: Based upon information provided by
LEGATT Bridgetown, Post reported previously that Mitchell is
accused of taking US$50,000 from Resteiner (reftel). The
Grenadian investigation, however, is looking into charges
that the PM accepted US$500,000. End note.)



3. (U) The Commission has been inactive since June 2005, in
part because of a legal challenge brought by the leader of
Grenada's opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC),
Tillman Thomas, who petitioned to take part in the
investigation. The petition was rejected by Richard
Cheltenham, sole member of the Commission of Inquiry. The
opposition leader successfully appealed this decision in
court but the Government has filed a subsequent appeal,
leaving the matter in limbo until a judgment is handed down.



--------------------------


Inquiry Has Done Little Inquiring


--------------------------





4. (U) Even without the legal delay, it appeared to observers
that the Commission of Inquiry failed to aggressively pursue
the matter against PM Mitchell. The Commission has
interviewed several civil servants who organized or
participated in the PM's 2000 trip to Switzerland where he
allegedly accepted the money from Resteiner. It has not
interviewed journalist David Marchant, who first published
the allegations against the PM on his website Offshore Alert,
nor has it obtained testimony from Eric Resteiner.



--------------------------


No Effort to Contact the Key Figure


--------------------------





5. (C) The Government of Grenada (GOG) has made no effort to
seek testimony from Eric Resteiner, the individual who
allegedly bribed PM Mitchell, according the Richard
Cheltenham, the Barbados attorney who is the sole member of
the Commission of Inquiry. Cheltenham explained to Poloff
that he recommended to Minister of Foreign Affairs Elvin
Nimrod that the GOG ask the USG for assistance in obtaining a
statement from Resteiner, who is presently in Federal prison
after pleading guilty to multiple charges of fraud (reftel).
Resteiner had reportedly offered to provide to the USG
evidence against Mitchell, including a videotape showing the
PM accepting the bribe, in exchange for a lighter sentence.
After Federal officials declined the offer, Resteiner had no
reason to cooperate with the GOG. Cheltenham said he advised
the Foreign Minister that requesting USG assistance was only
a symbolic gesture but could at least give the appearance
that the GOG was attempting to get to the bottom of the
matter.



--------------------------


Commissioner's Contradictory Conclusions


--------------------------





6. (C) The Commission of Inquiry should have concluded its
work "long ago," according to attorney Cheltenham, who
offered Poloff contradictory assessments of the situation in
Grenada. The Commissioner, whose independence has been
questioned by observers, said he believes there is no truth
to the charges against the PM, but also complained at length
about the "network of rascality" in the Eastern Caribbean
through which shady business figures buy influence and
diplomatic status. "Any self-respecting government does not
allow its PM to go on a trip financed by a private
individual," said Cheltenham. The lawyer argued that the
Commission of Inquiry could have proved useful by laying down
guidelines to govern the manner in which the GOG accepts
money from outside figures as in the case of Resteiner, who
PM Mitchell contends, and Cheltenham said he believes,
provided US$15,000 to fund a Government trade mission.



7. (C) The Commission of Inquiry may never complete its work,
in Cheltenham's opinion. In any event, its independence will
be doubted as a result of statements by PM Mitchell and his
top legal advisor, Hugh Wildman, both of whom publicly
declared the inquiry to be over. Cheltenham is highly
critical of Wildman, who has proven aptly named through his
regular, inappropriate public utterances such as when he
recently called the Commission of Inquiry "an exercise in
futility." The Barbados lawyer believes it was Wildman who
advised the GOG against requesting assistance from the USG to
obtain a statement from Resteiner.



--------------------------


Much Ado About Nothing


--------------------------





8. (C) The charges against PM Mitchell are "much ado about
nothing," in the opinion of GOG legal advisor Hugh Wildman.
To date, the Commission of Inquiry has uncovered no evidence
of any wrongdoing and found simply that the PM was reimbursed
for personal expenses incurred during an official trade
mission. Grenada, which has limited resources, needs to take
advantage of international business figures such as Eric
Resteiner who have connections to possible investors,
explained Wildman, who complained to Poloff that the
corruption charges are an attempt by the opposition to
discredit the PM.



9. (U) Note: Jamaican-born Hugh Wildman has been a
controversial figure in Grenada since his arrival in 1998,
when he came to work as Director of Public Prosecutions. PM
Keith Mitchell sought to name Wildman Attorney General in
2005, but the appointment was successfully blocked by the
opposition-dominated Grenada Bar Association, which argued
Wildman's intemperate nature made him a poor choice for the
job. The PM went around this obstruction by appointing
Wildman to the newly created position of Special Legal
Advisor to the Government although observers believe he is
the de facto Attorney General. End note.



--------------------------


Will USG Provide the Videotape?


--------------------------





10. (C) The political opposition remains hopeful that the
Government will lose its current legal appeal and NDC leader
Tillman Thomas will be allowed on the Commission of Inquiry.
Opposition Parliamentarian Peter David said that Grenada's
Governor General, who formally established the Commission,
had given David his personal assurance that the investigation
would get moving again. Such an outcome would be more likely
if the USG could assist the Commission in acquiring a copy of
the videotape that reportedly shows Keith Mitchell taking the
bribe from Eric Resteiner, David explained to Poloff.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------





11. (C) The opposition's optimism is curious considering that
the Commission of Inquiry has accomplished virtually nothing
during two years of existence, supporting the view that the
Government had no intention of permitting a thorough,
independent investigation. How the Commission can justify
its failure to contact Eric Resteiner or question the PM is
hard to fathom. Unfortunately, the opposition has made
matters worse through its legal action that has caused an
interminable delay that, the longer it continues, could see
the Commission quietly disappear. PM Keith Mitchell

doubtless hopes that public memory of the formal inquiry will
fade before Grenada's next election, which is due by 2008.
The "briefcase incident" and other allegations of malfeasance
involving the PM and members of his Government will insure,
however, that corruption will be one of the key issues for
voters.
KRAMER