KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, March 14, IWN — Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves says he does not owe money to French banker Thierry Nano, who the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has accused of money laundering.
Nano was arrested in France in January on allegations of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering.
The FBI obtained a sealed indictment in the southern district of Florida in which Nano says that Gonsalves and former prime minister Sir James Mitchell, were important debtors of Nano’s New Bank Ltd.
But Gonsalves told I-Witness News that he does not owe Nano.
“I may do many things in politics but I never borrowed money from Nano,” he said.
“I never borrowed one cent from Nano,” Gonsalves, a lawyer, told I-Witness News.
He said he did legal work for Nano for about three years.
“I understand this first arose in a case in New York,” he further told I-Witness News of the allegation that he borrowed money.
“No one has served me anything; no one has asked me anything. I do not owe them,” he further said.
Gonsalves said that New Bank was placed in receivership under his Unity Labour Party administration, which came to office in 2001.
The New Democratic Party administration had revoked Nano’s licence, but the Gonsalves government reinstated it.
Gonsalves told I-Witness News that the NDP government did not follow the law when it revoked the licence.
“Nano was going to win,” Gonsalves said of a court challenge against the revocation of the license.
He said the court had ordered that the revocation of the licence be made null and void.
But on the very day that the Gonsalves government reinstated New Bank’s licence, it also placed the bank in receivership, he said.
“This displeased him (Nano) really bad,” the Gonsalves said.
“He (Nano) thought the court license would have given him his licence,” he further stated.
In August 2000, New Bank wrote to Sir James, other ministers of the then government and senior civil servants demanding they repay loans and advances it said it made to them.
Sir James denied having obtained loans or taken advances from the bank.
In November 2001, Nano left St. Vincent on a chartered flight to Martinique following the issuance of a warrant for his extradition by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Gonsalves subsequently said that there was no law under which this country could have detained Nano, who was on the run for several years before he was arrested.