January 29, 2010
Eustace calls on PM to clear air

The financial image of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been hurt by the allegations of wrong doings concerning a US $1 million transaction at the state owned National Commercial Bank (NCB).{{more}}

So says Leader of the Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) Arnhim Eustace, during his contribution to the 2010 budget debate at Parliament on Tuesday.

“I am convinced that this is damaging our country.”

“What I want him (Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves) to do is clear the air so that the image of this country could breathe clean air.”

When Eustace asked about the source of the US $1 million during the estimates on January 19, Gonsalves indicated that he was not commenting on the matter.

News of the alleged transaction was brought to light just days before the November 25, 2009, referendum on constitutional reform.

Eustace brought the issue back on the table this week, saying that it was very relevant to the financial sector of the country.

He said that the issue was a matter of great concern, not just for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines but for the financial relations with corresponding banks which deal with the NCB.

“The NCB has all these relations all over the world. The NCB is not accustomed to remitting so much US dollars in cash to the East Caribbean Central Bank.”

“Given the concern about money laundering, we must answer. Let it be clear to the public and for those outside St. Vincent and the Grenadines to see we have nothing to hide. What is the difficulty with that?”

Eustace, however, lauded the NCB for allegedly refusing the money.

“I want to congratulate the bank for taking that action. Here we have a million dollars in cash, which is quite unusual. But the fact remains they started to count the money and then the manager for the bank recognized the implication and said: ‘Wait, put a hold to that,’ and the Ministry of Finance was called to take back the money because the bank was worried.”

According to Eustace, he had been informed that the money was taken back out of the country.

The Opposition Leader stated that despite Gonsalves’ refusal to answer the question, he has no doubt that the Prime Minister is concerned about the matter.

He said that the issue is frightening when the Prime Minister cannot say what is the source of the funds.

Eustace called the alleged attempt to deposit the large sum of money as a contemptuous and total disregard for the laws of the country, and asked what example was the Government setting.

He went on to ask how many times since the revelation that the government had received funds in cash from monetary agencies and or governments.

He also queried whether the NCB has ever received such large sums in cash to be deposited.

“This thing is generating a lot of heat,” Eustace insisted. “An answer is all that it will take to cool it down.”