Attorney general, Levi Peter, is dismissing as ‘nonsense’ claims that Dominica’s representatives at the Sochi Olympics, Gary and Angelica di Silvestri, were granted Dominican citizenship based on charitable work done on the island.
The claims were made by the couple themselves in interviews with US-based media.
Some media outlets have even reported that the couple had built a children’s hospital in Dominica.
“It’s a beautiful country; we fell in love with it, and the people are great, and we wanted to help them in some way,” Gary told the New York Times before the games, which were held from February 7 – 27. “These countries, they need assistance, so we did. We acted the best we could at the time, made a financial contribution to the country that went to different projects, and in return they granted us citizenship.”
He told NBC Sports that he and his wife were offered citizenship as a thank you for charitable works.
“It was kind of given to us,” he said. “It was nothing.”
But speaking on state-owned DBS Radio on Monday, Peter dismissed the claims as nonsense and said the process of granting the couple citizenship was transparent.
“The area where I think there may be some controversy…is the reports seems to indicate that the couple said or intimated or whatever, that they had been granted citizenship as result of either a contribution to or building a children’s hospital or something like that… that is complete nonsense,” he said. “And I think a moments reflection by any sober minded person will make that clear. First of all we don’t have a children’s hospital in Dominica. So I don’t know where that came from. Second of all no name has been mentioned. Who was this money paid too? Which government account, which government official, which government minister? I have not heard any name mentioned.”
He said as far as he knows, the di Silvestris did not make any contribution to Dominica, “apart from the US$100,000 that they paid in respect to the investment…which is required for the economic citizenship program to which they applied.”
“I am not aware that they made any other contribution,” Peter noted.
He pointed out that the two were granted citizenship because they met the criteria as stipulated by the government. “I have not seen nor heard anything which indicates the International Olympics Authority has any concerns of the two people who represented Dominica at the Sochi Winter Olympics,” he stated. “That should tell its own story.”
He noted that the application for citizenship by the two was received in August 2012. “They were interviewed in November 2012,” the attorney general revealed. “They were interviewed right here in Dominica at the financial center. They were interviewed by myself and the head of Special Branch. They provided all the information that was required under the scheme as it existed at the time. They were reviewed by the due diligence process … a due diligent report was written by the due diligence agency and they subjected to an interview as anybody else.”
Eyebrows were raised when news broke, before the games, that the ultra-rich couple would be representing Dominica in cross country skiing. When the games began, many in the media began asking questions about the di Silvestris since they were hardly known in international sporting circles. They were accused of being “sports tourists” who scammed their way to the games.
Despite the negative press generated by the two, president of the Dominica Olympics Committee, Felix Wilson, has insisted that Dominica has benefited from the experience and vowed that the island will continue to participate in winter games.