The Panama Papers a lawyer and Dominica’s missing millions

The Panama Papers a lawyer and Dominica’s missing millions

By TDN Wire Staff
May 16, 2016 1:58 P.M

stephen isidore
Offshore attorney Stephen Isidore.
Roseau, Dominica (TDN) For several years now Stephen Isidore has been one of the key architects of Dominica’s offshore sector involved heavily in the registration of shell companies, which allow their formation in the protected enclaves of the Caribbean offshore tax havens.

From the confines of his home within the majestic walls of a mansion dwarfing the local village health center Isidore succeeded in registering over 25 Companies with the Firm Mossack Fonseca, which is at the heart of the Panama Papers. Some with obscure names like SPL Trading Limited, ALU Business Corp and CGI Worldwide Ltd.

In addition to listing ‘Bearer” as shareholders of his newly formed companies Isidore also turned to a man who has since died, a former office attendant in his law firm, and a former fellow teller at a bank where he worked previously to list as shareholders and beneficiaries.

The mother of the former office attendant immediately took to the local media to protest her son’s innocence claiming that he neither consented to nor was he aware of being listed as a beneficiary to LPR Capital Ltd registered in the Seychelles in 2000. He was also blissfully unaware that he had resigned as an agent for MSF Advertising in 2012. The company was registered in the British Virgin Islands since 1999.

To compound matters the address listed on the Mossack Fonseca documents corresponded to a street address in Roseau where his unsuspecting mother operates a small food shop.

Isidore is no stranger to controversy. On November 19, 2010 he was famously taken to court by his former mentor and law partner Glenworth (GON) Emanuel on 42 criminal counts involving the handling of EC $2.6 million (US $ 1.0 million) through their law firm on behalf of prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit.

The charges also included fraud, theft, falsification of accounts, criminal breach of trust, misrepresentation, and obtaining money by deception to the tune of EC $ 7 million (US $ 2.6 million). From the beginning the case was filled with political intrigue and Police non-action.

On November 24, 2010 local Magistrate Evalina Baptiste issued an arrest warrant for Mr. Isidore in order that he appear before the court for the reading of the charges on December 6, 2010. Inexplicably however, after receiving the warrant the police Commissioner refused to execute the arrest.

The day December 6, 2010 served a decisive blow to the course of justice in Dominica. Police in full riot gear and with orders to shoot if necessary were ordered to cordon off the area around the court to prevent the public access to the proceedings.
stephen isidore
Isidore's mansion dwarfs the village health center.
Isidore did not show up at the appointed time but several hours later appeared with his legal team who had somehow obtained an order from the High Court judge mandating a stay of the execution of the arrest warrant; and prohibiting the Chief magistrate or any Magistrate from reading the charges, pending the determination of the application for leave to apply for judicial review of the Chief Magistrate’s decision to issue an arrest warrant.

That was then, now more than five years later the High Court is yet to rule and for all intents and purposes this matter may never see the judicial light of review in Dominica, casting an ominous cloud on the issuance of justice in the country for those politically well connected.

In the meantime, just weeks after the mockery in the court an unknown person or persons attempted to burn alive Emanuel and his wife in their beds while they slept on Christmas morning 2010. Thankfully the fire bomb only incinerated the vehicle in the garage and the reinforced concrete walls ensured that the job was bungled by the arsonist. The couple survived.

Police would later drag their feet on the investigation and despite a confession by Denny Shillingford days after the fire it would take the brave action of acting Director of Public Prosecution Julian Prevost to order his arrest and that of his accomplice in May 2013.

Finally on May 29, 2013 Police in Dominica arrested and charged Earl ‘Seko’ Grant a close friend of Isidore and Denny Shillingford a convicted criminal on charges of conspiracy to commit arson and arson respectively.

Interestingly in a shocking reversal on January 21, 2015 a new Director of Public Prosecution refused to offer further evidence against Earl “Seko’ Grant and the case was summarily dismissed in the courts. In the meantime in August 2014 Denny Shillingford was shot by an unknown assailant but survived. The case against him has also been dismissed.

In addition to his offshore exploits, Isidore a close friend and lawyer for Dominica’s prime minister Roosevelt Skerrit have served for many years as one of the leading agents for the sale of Dominican passports. In October 2013 he famously boasted to a German newspaper that “since the programme was established in 1993, over 12,000 individuals have successfully applied for and obtained citizenship, with a further 2,000 to be granted citizenship in the coming year.”

He also told the newspaper that Isidore & Associates is “the most experienced of the island’s legal firms in supporting those undergoing the citizenship programme.”

However, despite Isidore’s boast of the sale of 2000 passports which should have yielded revenues of close to EC $540 million (US $ 200 million) only EC $50 million (US $ 18.5 million) made its way to the Dominican Treasury.

Further over the 20 year period for the 12 000 passports sold this should have yielded close to EC $ 3 billion (US $ 1.1 billion ) in government revenue but official figures show only about EC $ 0.5 billion was collected in revenue during that time. Finally the Dominican government has steadfastly refused to give an account of the total sales of passports in any given year.

This has led many on the Island to question whether there are any links between the lack of transparency in the sale of passports, Isidore’s revelation of EC $540 million (US $ 200 million) in 2013 and the murky confines of the Panama Papers. Questions are also being asked as to why ordinary Dominicans who have no known sources of wealth be listed as beneficiaries in companies potentially worth millions of dollars.

Somewhere in the huge stockpile of the Panama Papers could reside the answers to the questions uppermost on the minds of most Dominicans.

In the meantime the local Police have a more immediate task in determining whether fraud and identity theft was committed in the registration of the companies and whether in fact the Dominican shareholders and beneficiaries were knowing participants in the biggest financial scandal to rock the world and indeed the corrupted island of Dominica.

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