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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06BRIDGETOWN875
2006-05-19 18:48:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bridgetown
Cable title:  

DOMINICA'S DIPLOMATIC TROUBLE WITH SWITZERLAND

Tags:   AORC  CPAS  OFDP  PGOV  PINR  PREL  KCRM  DO  SZ  XL 
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VZCZCXYZ0049
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHWN #0875/01 1391848
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191848Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2533
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN 0096
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J2 MIAMI FL
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J5 MIAMI FL
RUEHCV/USDAO CARACAS VE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0239
						C O N F I D E N T I A L BRIDGETOWN 000875 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/19/2016
TAGS: AORC CPAS OFDP PGOV PINR PREL KCRM DO SZ XL
SUBJECT: DOMINICA'S DIPLOMATIC TROUBLE WITH SWITZERLAND

REF: A. BRIDGETOWN 429

B. BRIDGETOWN 239

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



1. (C) Summary: Dominica brought Switzerland to the
International Court of Justice over the Swiss decision to
strip a Dominica "diplomat" of his diplomatic status.
Russian-born Roman Lakschin, who obtained Dominica
citizenship through the Caribbean island-state's economic
citizenship program, was accredited as Dominica's
representative to the UN in Switzerland. The Government of
Switzerland withdrew Lakschin's diplomatic status because it
believes he is a businessman and not a bona fide diplomat.
Dominica argued in response that the Swiss have no right to
withdraw Lakschin's diplomatic accreditation, which is to the
UN and not Switzerland. Lakschin's ties to Dominica have
previously been the subject of a controversy that calls into
question the integrity of both the country's economic
citizenship program and its diplomats. End summary.



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


Dominica Brings Case Against Switzerland


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





2. (U) The Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica (GCOD)
brought a case against Switzerland before the International
Court of Justice (ICJ) over what Dominica says is
Switzerland's unlawful decision to withdraw the diplomatic
status of Roman Lakschin, Dominica's representative to the UN
in Geneva. In presenting its case to the ICJ in April, the
GCOD accused the Swiss of violating the Vienna Convention on
Diplomatic Relations by removing the diplomatic credentials
of Lakschin, who was not a representative to Switzerland but
to the UN. Dominica argued that as a small country of only
70,000 people it is constrained in its ability to select
diplomatic representatives and has the right to send whomever
it wishes to Geneva to act as its envoy to the various UN
agencies located there. Curiously, in May the GCOD announced
that it would delay its legal action against Switzerland
until the matter could be investigated further.



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


Diplomat's Questionable Status


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





3. (U) Roman Lakschin's diplomatic activities on behalf of
Dominica have previously been the subject of controversy.
The Russian-born Lakschin received Dominica citizenship in
the 1990s through the country's economic citizenship program.
In March 1996, he was accredited to the UN, its specialized
agencies, and the World Trade Organization (WTO), as
Counselor to the Permanent Mission of Dominica to the UN in
Geneva. In December 1996, the Swiss withdrew Lakschin's
accreditation, stating that it had done so because he was a
businessman and not a diplomat. Dominica responded by
re-appointing Lakschin as Charge d'affaires in March 1997,

then elevated him to Ambassador in May. The Swiss again
withdrew Lakschin's accreditation in November 1998. Dominica
does not appear to have taken any further action on
Lakschin's behalf until it filed the current case with the
ICJ in April 2006.



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


Living in Monaco and Selling Passports


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





4. (U) Despite Roman Lakschin's various diplomatic
assignments to Dominica's Mission to the UN in Geneva,
Dominica does not appear to have any type of diplomatic
presence in Switzerland and is represented throughout Europe
by its Mission in Brussels. Lakschin is a resident of Monaco
but has business and financial dealings in Switzerland,
according to press reports.



5. (U) Lakschin's diplomatic activities on behalf of Dominica
are alleged to have consisted solely of selling Dominica
passports. These allegations first arose publicly in 2003,
when the integrity of Dominica's economic citizenship program
was being questioned by the international community. Canada
had recently deported several Dominica economic citizens,
members of the Russian-born Ponomarenko family, for suspected
criminal ties. As part of its investigation into how the
Russians had obtained Dominica citizenship, Dominica Attorney
General Henry Dyer said the GCOD would look into any
connection to Roman Lakschin, who was suspected of having
sold several Dominica passports to Russians for US$500,000
each. The Dominica press also reported in 2003 that the GCOD
had assisted Swiss authorities in investigating Lakschin for
selling Dominica passports to two Swiss families.



6. (U) Note: It is unclear exactly how many passports have
been issued under Dominica's economic citizenship program,
which was begun in 1991 as a means to attract investment to
this small, economically troubled country. A 2003 report by
the BBC cited 2,371 passports, while a GCOD official put the
number closer to 3,000 in 2005. At present, economic
citizenship requires a payment to the GCOD of US$75,000 for
an individual or US$100,000 for a family of four. The
information publicly available on the program does not
indicate if issuance of a Dominica diplomatic passport
requires an additional fee. End note.



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


Who Filed the Case for Dominica?


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





7. (U) Questions have been raised in the Dominica press about
the decision to bring a case against Switzerland eight years
after Roman Lakschin was last stripped of his diplomatic
status and after the GCOD had itself accused Lakschin of
impropriety. According to one account, Lakschin was recently
sued in Switzerland and invoked diplomatic immunity, claiming
still to be Dominica's Ambassador. He then traveled to
Dominica and convinced certain government officials, possibly
even Foreign Minister Charles Savarin, to agree to file a
case on his behalf against Switzerland for removing his
diplomatic accreditation. Lakschin may have also retained
the British attorney who actually wrote and filed the
complaint with the ICJ in April. Observers believe that the
GCOD's subsequent announcement in May that it would delay
further action until the case could be investigated is an
indication that certain members of the Government were not
aware of the case and have questioned the decision to support
Lakschin.



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


Comment


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





8. (C) Roman Lakschin's troubles once again raise questions
that have surrounded Dominica's economic citizenship program
and the manner in which it grants diplomatic status to
non-citizens. The GCOD has taken criticism in the past for
failing to adequately screen those to whom it grants economic
citizenship, which is often sought by individuals attempting
to avoid financial obligations or even criminal charges in
other countries. The critics have also accused the prime
ministers of Dominica and other Eastern Caribbean states of
accepting bribes in exchange for giving diplomatic status to
both economic citizens and non-citizens (reftels). In the
case of Dominica, the GCOD recently requested that the USG
issue a diplomatic visa to a non-citizen who had been
appointed Ambassador-at-Large. The individual, a Barbados
businessman who is believed to have contributed generously to
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit's 2005 re-election campaign,
may very well conduct legitimate diplomatic activity on
behalf of Dominica. The more that is learned about Dominica
"diplomats" such as Roman Lakschin, however, the harder it
may be for Dominica to convince other countries that its
emissaries are genuine.
PETERS