Financial link between Dominica PM Roosevelt Skerrit and Ronald Pieter Nolen

Several years ago, Ali Reza Monfared, the Iranian who succeeded in buying diplomatic immunity by bribing Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit after embezzling millions of dollars came under the radar of media.

In November 2019, Monfared was convicted of embezzling millions of dollars from his country, just one of the strands in a global web of financial, diplomatic and personal fraud that saw him sentenced to 20 years in prison and a US$1.3bn fine. It could have been worse. In 2016, Monfared’s billionaire business partner, Babak Zanjani, was sentenced to death for his role in the siphoning off of US$2.8bn from Iranian oil revenues.

Ali Reza Monfared’s natural charisma and hustle had taken him far. From humble beginnings in the home decoration business, he had rocketed to success: banker, international oil trader and, finally, “His Excellency Dato Ali Reza Monfared”, Dominica’s ambassador to Malaysia. In 2015, Monfared had secured a Dominican diplomatic passport and, with it, what he treasured most of all – diplomatic immunity.

Dominica is an island in the Lesser Antilles – a vertical strip of eastern Caribbean islands that cascades towards South America. It is volcanic and wild, with steep peaks jutting dramatically out of the sea. But lacking the picture-perfect beaches of its neighbors, it struggles to attract tourists and is one of the poorest countries in the region. It is also one of those least touched by development.

Initially, Ali Reza Monfared’s goal was to secure citizenship for his family. It is perfectly legal and very common, at that time usually costing between US$200,000 and US$300,000. The money either goes to private projects, like hotels, or to infrastructure. It can be a huge source of revenue for small Caribbean islands. Within weeks Monfared and his family members received its naturalization paperwork and he became a citizen of the Commonwealth of Dominica. Prior to this. Ali Reza Monfared succeeded in having a meeting with Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit. During this meeting, Skerrit offered Monfared to be Dominica’s ambassador at large.

By mid-October 2014, Monfared had received his official application for a diplomatic passport. On October 29, 2014, two emails arrived with two invoices for help with Skerrit’s upcoming election campaign. One was for US$85,000 to print the party’s manifesto. The other was for US$115,000 for billboards, a sound system and fireworks. But they were not all campaign-related payments. In November, Monfared was asked for another US$200,000.

In early December 2014, five months after the initial meetings in Dominica, Monfared received what he had been hoping for – a signed letter from the prime minister offering an ambassadorship. The appointment raised questions, not only because it happened immediately after an election he helped pay for, but also about the due diligence the Dominicans carried out because by this point Monfared’s business partner, Zanjani, had been arrested and the First Islamic Investment Bank, of which Monfared was the authorized signatory, had been sanctioned by the US and the EU.

The next step was to plan the biggest party yet, to welcome Roosevelt Skerrit to Malaysia. Skerrit wanted Ali Reza Monfared to pay for him to travel to Malaysia and then on to meetings in China by private jet. Monfared agreed. In March 2015, Skerrit touched down in Malaysia. No expense was spared. He was picked up from the airport in a Rolls Royce. The reception for him featured champagne, catered food, a jazz band and plenty of escort girls. It was there that Skerrit handed Monfared his diplomatic passport.

Now is the story of Ronald Pieter Nolen, a Dutch businessman who was known to be a wealthy resident of Dominica, and who too held a Dominica Citizenship by Investment (CBI) passport, despite the fact – Nolen was facing major money laundering charges in Europe.

According to media reports, Ronald Pieter Nolen maintained an affluent lifestyle in Dominica for several years. He was known for throwing lavish parties in his home, attended by members of the ruling Labour Party, including the Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.

It is also alleged that Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and several influential leaders of Labour Party as well as family members of Skerrit were directly involved in business activities of Ronald Pieter Nolen, while it also is alleged that members of D-Company, a dangerous mafia gang run by FBI’s most wanted Dawood Ibrahim were also maintaining connections with Nolen. It was earlier reported in BLiTZ that Dawood Ibrahim’s men were holding Dominica passport using fake names.

Nolen imported into Dominica as least fifty automobiles, many of which were luxury Mercedes Benz vehicles, which he gave as gifts to a number of prominent Dominicans. Automobiles, especially high-value premium vehicles, are a well-known method of money launderers, who are seeking to clean dirty money; Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, for example, was engaged in a massive operation to purchase cars in North America and transport them abroad, for that purpose.

Nolen owned two Dominica shell companies, and used Dominica nationals as front men, to pose as the individuals in control; these companies were engaged in import operations, but whether they were a part of any money laundering scheme is not known. In fact, no details of Nolen’s criminal case are not publicly available, and they appear to have been concealed by Dominica government officials, who fear public response to yet another arrest of a CBI passport holder.

Media reports claimed, the name appearing upon Nolen’s CBI passport is not his legal name, but since Dominica is not transparent about public disclosure of the names of CBI passport holders, we are unable to confirm this information.

Compliance officers have long known that neither East Caribbean CIP units, nor outside firms conducting due diligence, run applicant’s photographs through facial recognition software programs, to confirm identities and legal names, and in truth and in fact, are complicit in allowing applicants to freely use aliases. There has never been a statement, by any of the five East Caribbean states with CBI programs, that they employ facial recognition programs, notwithstanding the high-risk nature of most of the applicants, to confirm their identities. An individual with the same exact name is listed as being involved with corporations in Switzerland.

Dominica authorities did not respond to our email.

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