Cabinet cuts ties with controversial Colombian

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Justly or otherwise, Antigua and Barbuda could become embroiled in yet another international scandal caused by one of the many people it has accorded diplomatic status for various reasons such as cultural ambassadorship or commercial diplomacy.

These include locals and foreigners, some whose names only enter local public awareness when controversies or scandals in which they feature is exposed – usually by international media or the few remaining domestic brave hearts.

The latest commotion that could mushroom is in respect of one such (alleged) shadowy figure, a wealthy Colombian businessman named Alex Nain Saab Moran.

The April 25 article is titled ‘Venezuela’s Trade Scheme With Turkey Is Enriching a Mysterious Maduro Crony’. It is published on the American conservative right wing business website Bloomberg.Com. (https://www.bloomberg

.com/news/features/2019-04-25/venezuela-turkey-trading-scheme-enriches-mysterious-maduro-crony)

It is no secret that the Trump administration is determined to bring about the collapse of the Maduro government in Venezuela and anyone seen as providing any help to prolong the current regime in Caracas would find itself in the crosshairs of the powerful United States.

There does not seem to be anything proven against Saab Moran, based on what is in the Bloomberg article, except that US investigators believe him to be “one of the most powerful financial enablers of Maduro’s regime.”

Given the historical pattern of propaganda and destabilization employed in the now familiar agenda of regime change, we may never know for sure whether Saab Moran is not just being demonized for reputedly being on Maduro’s side in his alleged wheeling and dealing.

What would be of concern to Antiguans and Barbudans is that the 47-year-old Colombian is – or at least was, until recently – the holder of an Antigua & Barbuda passport and accredited with the status to represent the country internationally.

That passport was issued on 18th November 2014, less than 6 months after the Gaston Browne-led Antigua Labour Party was swept back to office. The passport’s expiry date would become due later this year.

Saab Moran, the article says, was granted economic citizenship and made a special economic envoy for Antigua and Barbuda – which explains the passport. He never kept a promise to build a factory in the twin-island state that would manufacture panels for

pre-fabricated houses, but he built one in Venezuela. The article quotes Prime Minister Browne describing Saab Moran as a friend.

Browne is said to have summoned Saab Moran to Cabinet for questioning concerning the reports of his questionable dealings, something the envoy denied. According to the Bloomberg piece, when informed about a Colombian arrest warrant for Saab, the Antigua and Barbuda leader reacted by stating that the accreditation and passport would be revoked.

Contacted by OBSERVER on Saturday, Foreign Minister Chet Greene assured us that the Antigua and Barbuda diplomatic passport and associated accreditations to Saab Moran were revoked about two weeks ago.

Greene said the wealthy South American entrepreneur was never an economic citizen of this country, as claimed in the Bloomberg article. The Minister clarified that Alex Saab Nain Moran had been appointed as an economic envoy, but this designation did not carry the title or rank of Ambassador, nor did it confer diplomatic immunity on the Colombian.

According to Greene, there was nothing underhanded or quirky about Saab Moran’s appointment as an economic envoy, which is merely an effort to utilize the individual’s high net worth and extensive international contacts for the purpose of attracting investments to Antigua and Barbuda.

Citing the recent case of then Ambassador Dr. Patrick Matthew – charged for alleged unlicensed medical/surgical practice – Greene said it is the policy of the Gaston Browne administration to revoke the credentials of any diplomat or envoy accused of crimes to the extent of being formally charged.

The Minister said this did not constitute making any judgments about culpability, but meant to protect the country’s reputation and integrity. Such action, he noted, had the added benefit of ensuring that those entrusted with such credentials would conduct themselves in a manner befitting national appointment by the twin-island state.

He said the latest round of allegations about Saab-Moran and his involvement with matters having to do with the Maduro government of Venezuela are not new; but on previous occasions when the Cabinet invited the envoy to explain, there were not yet any grounds identified on which to take action.

But Greene said once matters progressed to the point where charges were laid against Saab Moran by the Colombian government, then Antigua & Barbuda made the decision to formally terminate its relationship him.

The Foreign Minister also poured scorn on suggestions that the current administration has been overly liberal in its issuance of diplomatic passports and designations to divers personas who subsequently become a source of embarrassment to the State.

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