Foreign Minister, Francine Baron, has said that the Government of Dominica was unaware that ex-Dominican diplomat and Iranian national, Ali Reza Ziba Halat Monfared was in legal hot water before January 2016.
She was responding to questions posed by Opposition Leader, Lennox Linton in Parliament on Tuesday.
“Madam Speaker, the Government of Dominica was not aware on or before January 2016 that Mr. Monfared was a person of interest to law enforcement authorities in Iran,” she stated.
During the sitting of the House, Linton wanted to know how the government became aware that Monfared was a person of interest to the authorities in Iran on or before January, 20, 2015.
In response, Baron noted that in or about January 2016 the government became aware “informally” of a dispute between Monfared and a business partner in Malaysia “which resulted in complaints being made against him to the police.”
“It was decided then that in the circumstances, it would not be in the best interest of Dominica that he continues to represent our interest,” she said.
Monfared was arrested after an international manhunt in the Dominican Republic on allegations of being involved in Iran’s biggest-ever corruption scandal.
He was issued a Dominican diplomatic passport in March 2015. He was involved in the controversial mydominicatradehouse.com website and was described as a friend of Dominica and was passionate about the island. The website claimed that My Dominica Trade House, was a company that was based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with three local companies in Dominica. These companies, the site said, provided limousine taxi services, aqua prawn farming facility and energy solution that they said were completely based on green energy. The website is no longer active.
His diplomatic passport was revoked in January 2016.
Controversy over Monfared deepened when photos surfaced of him hosting lavish gatherings for numerous Dominican officials in Malaysia.
Reports indicate that Monfared had various passports and had managed to escape extradition at least once when he was briefly detained in Malaysia.
After he was arrested, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Dominica said due diligence was followed in granting Monfared a diplomatic passport.
The matter concerning Monfared was one in a series of embarrassing situations where appointed diplomats of Dominica found themselves in hot water with the law and which shone the international spotlight on Dominica. Others include Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng and former Nigerian minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
In the fallout, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, in an address to the nation, expressed regret over events pertaining to some people who were appointed diplomats of Dominica and revealed that a new policy will guide the government in appointing diplomats in the future.