Highlights of the withdrawal of former Deputy Consul General in NY
February 18, 2014

Highlights of the withdrawal of former Deputy Consul General in NY

Following are highlights of the Foreign Minister’s statement on the recall of the former deputy consul general Edison Augustus.{{more}}

On contact with Augustus and his return home:

Mr Augustus has been in contact with members of the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including the Permanent Secretary, regarding matters related to his recall and regarding matters related to his travel plans.

I personally have not spoken to Mr Augustus, but I am aware that the Ministry has been in touch with Mr Augustus (Friday, 14th February 2014).

Where is Mr Augustus today? I don’t know the answer to that question. If I am to accept his representation, he is en route to St Vincent and the Grenadines, but I don’t know where he is at this particular point in time (Sunday, 16th February 2014).

On communication with US State Department:

We received an electronic printout from the US State Department, dated 11th February, and the name of the person terminated is that of Mr Augustus. That electronic receipt was generated when the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines informed the State Department that a person’s posting had been terminated and, as a consequence, his visa is terminated. That was one of many things we did.

We also sent a diplomatic note, according to protocol, to the United States State department, indicating that this person’s diplomatic passport had been cancelled and we asked that they do what they have to do on their end, because the visa is not ours; the visa belongs to the USA.

On cancellation of the diplomatic passport:

The document that is in the direct control of the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines is his diplomatic passport and not his visa – his visa is issued by the United States. The red passport that says ‘diplomat’ is no longer a valid document, because we have issued instructions to cancel that passport. We do not have it in our hands at the moment, but if his passport is scanned at any airport, we have already informed the central agencies that deal with that, that it is no longer valid.

Now, Mr Augustus has a regular Vincentian passport that is valid and which he can travel on, but the issue of his diplomatic passport has been dealt with; the issue of his visa has been dealt with.

On when the Ministry knew:

The issue as you know, that the deputy consul general, based in New York, was recalled on Friday last, based on information that we received on Wednesday. So, we received the information on Wednesday, we confirmed sufficient amounts of that information on Thursday and Friday and issued the recall that day (Friday, 14th). We issued a press release on Monday indicating that the deputy consul general had been recalled and that investigations were ongoing.

On the information received:

The issue that we have confirmed that the deputy consul general was involved in, outside the scope of his employment, was that he was holding himself out to members of the Vincentian diaspora in New York as being able to, in some way, facilitate or expedite their acquisition of a green card – these individuals whose immigration status was not regularized and who are out of status, one way or the other.

The deputy consul general, we have confirmed, requested a fee for such services and said that people will be able to receive green cards due to his intervention, within 16 to 18 months.

Now, such activities are not activities that are condoned or countenanced or provided by the Consulate General of St Vincent and the Grenadines, or indeed any consulate…Him being clothed in the authority of the Consulate General could have created the impression in people’s minds that he had a string he could pull by virtue of the fact that he was deputy consul general.

So I, having received confirmation of enough of these reports, made the decision to recall the deputy consul general.

The accusation, allegation, or speculation that the deputy consul general was involved in the sale of passports, whether to Vincentians, Iranians, Al Qaeda, or to sub-Saharan African countries, or what have you, is absolutely, unequivocally false. There is zero evidence of that.

On alleged passport sale:

Just to be clear, passports are not issued by our foreign missions. There are some countries, even OECS countries, where the foreign missions do have passports in the drawers that they issue. In St Vincent and the Grenadines, we process passport applications overseas, but they are all filled locally in Kingstown. So, every time you fill out an application and give your money in Toronto or New York or where have you, those applications are mailed back to St. Vincent and analyzed by police and immigration, and the passport is then issued. Those of us who have gone through the process know that to be true, but rumours were created to suggest that somehow he was affixing a picture to a passport out of his office. That is not possible.

On alleged green card sale:

The issue that the deputy consul general was selling green cards is similarly fanciful. The USA will be crazy to give us a stack of green cards or give any country a stack of green cards to sell. Their internal processes, their security processes are such that they would never do that; so that is also a fanciful claim.

On being part of a syndicate:

The allegation that the deputy consul general was involved in some form of syndicate or scheme involving other government officials, involving members of the police, involving other members of even his own Consulate, are false and unsubstantiated.

What we have learned is that the deputy consul general made these representations to people while he was out and about in Brooklyn, and he would instruct them to come to his residence and make payment for the alleged service; and that people paid their money at his house.

There were no receipts given; there were no pledges made on behalf of the Consulate, but the fact of the matter is that the activity he did is not an activity that is part of his job description, and it is an activity that would appear to a vulnerable Vincentian who is out of status, that by virtue of his office he is able to make this thing come to fruition, and we wanted to disabuse ourselves of that, so we recalled Mr Augustus.

On whether activities may be criminal offences:

The people that Mr Augustus interacted with are people in the United States who are out of status for one reason or the other, and many of them, in our own investigations, have been reluctant to come on the record, for obvious reasons.

So, it is difficult for things to happen without sworn testimony of the people affected and many of them who have been willing to speak have said ‘I am not signing any affidavit; my status is such that I don’t want to speak’. But even if they did, I’m not sure that what Mr Augustus has done, which is to promise to facilitate these things, rises to the level of a criminal offence. I could be advised by lawyers on that, but what it certainly rose to was an action that was beyond the scope of his employment.

On the matter of possible deception:

I am not saying that it is impossible for Mr Augustus to have been able to help somebody get a green card. He would not have gotten it for them, but he could have helped them to navigate the labyrinth of regulations. But that is not his job. So, we recalled him for that purpose and for the purpose that it may have been unlikely in our estimation that some of those people would have gotten green cards.

On the length of time taken to return:

I take him at his word that he is on his way home. And people say ‘well it has been a whole week – a whole week, since this thing has taken place’. When diplomats leave, when their term of contract comes to an end – and a lot of people are talking about things that they have no knowledge about – when a diplomat’s term of office comes to an end, it is not unusual for the US to let them stay another week or two to organize their affairs. We’ve recalled somebody who was living in an apartment. He had to organize his things to ship home. He had to pack; he had to buy a ticket; he had to do a number of things.

I am not saying that this is what has caused the delay. I’m saying that things have to be put in place for somebody to return home from a job that they did not anticipate leaving at that time.

But those are bureaucratic issues.