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Is China’s cash in NDP’s foreign policy shift?

Is China’s cash in NDP’s foreign policy shift?

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As President of the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) Arnhim Eustace read the statement declaring his party’s support for the ‘One China Policy’, sitting in the audience at Democrat House, paying rapt attention, was an adviser to the Grenada government.

Was the NDP’s surprise announcement of a foreign policy shift triggered by the recent disclosure that the party had received US$500,000 from an overseas donor? And do these recent developments have a Grenadian connection?

The presence of the Grenadian government adviser at the press briefing on Tuesday is interesting, as 12 years ago, the New National Party (NNP) government of Grenada took a similar step and cut diplomatic ties with Taipei.{{more}}

The Grenadian government adviser in the audience was Hamlet Mark, who, however, told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that his presence at the press briefing was purely coincidental. (See story on Page 3).

According to a November 2011 report published by the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), negotiations between China and Grenada were done through a lobbyist group, who, in 2004, made a proposal for the Grenada Government to end diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

According to the report, approximately US$40 million was to be paid to the Grenada Government in tranches, on the achievement by the Grenada Government of certain milestones.

The report said a confidential letter, dated November 14, 2004 was sent to Richardson Andrews, a special adviser to Grenadian Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, by one Frank Hwang, president of the London based Keppel Foundation.

Hwang said the money from China was to be used to help the Grenada administration meet its “financial needs” to pay off a loan from Taiwan and to finish community based projects started by Taipei. The letter also mentioned a proposed US$1 million for Mitchell to set up an education fund.

“Subject to further confirmation, China might be able to allocate and release the funding of US$5 million upon announcement of the normalization of relations between the two countries…” the CMC reported.

“US$10 million when Grenada closes down and vacates the Embassy of Taiwan within a month to follow, US$15 million after the embassies of both countries have been established, and US$10 million at the conclusion of the first year of the normalization of bilateral relations,” the letter continued.

But Elvin Nimrod, Grenada’s foreign minister, who travelled to Beijing in January 2005 for the final negotiations and agreement, said the final document did not contain any of the preliminary proposals from the Keppel Foundation.

“None of the proposals in those letters ever entered into the final negotiations and agreement. The final agreement is in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Nimrod said.

The final agreement may have involved considerably more than US40 million, because according to a US government document made public by WikiLeaks, the Grenadian government “could not pass up the US$250 million dangled in front of it by the PRC (China) in 2005 to adopt the One China Policy.”

But observers here have questioned the NDP’s timing of the foreign policy announcement, saying that by burning their bridges with Taiwan even before they form government, the NDP may have lost whatever bargaining power they may have with China.

Last week, in our Midweek edition, SEARCHLIGHT reported that on November 24, 2015, XCD$1.35 million, the equivalent of US$500,000, was deposited into the RBTT bank account of a lawyer close to the NDP, and the following day, XCD$300,000 was paid out from the account to the political party. On December 1, eight days before the general elections, the balance of the money was paid to the opposition party.

Was the US$500,000 in any way connected to the shift of the party to the ‘One China Policy’?

SEARCHLIGHT reached out to the NDP President Arnhim Eustace on Wednesday, but he did not return our call. We spoke with a member of his staff at Democrat House, who said he could not come to the phone, as he was in a meeting. We asked that he call us back, explaining that we were working on a follow-up story to Tuesday’s announcement and would appreciate the opportunity to interview him. Our call was not returned and multiple calls to his home later on Wednesday went unanswered.

While we reported last week that the funds given to the NDP originated in Belize, it has now been determined by investigators that the funds came instead from a Swiss bank account, on the instruction of a Belizean registered company named ‘Ballajura’.

Internet searches by SEARCHLIGHT for ‘Ballajura’ have all come up blank, except in relation to a community by the name of Ballajura, a suburb of Perth in Western Australia.

While doing our search for information on Ballajura, however, the name ‘Frank Hwang’ again surfaced, this time as a real estate agent based in Texas, USA, whose company offers for sale several international properties, including some in Ballajura, Australia and Belize.

SEARCHLIGHT has been unable to verify if Frank Hwang, the real estate agent and Frank Hwang of the Keppel Foundation are in any way connected.

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