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Mitchell Fury At Visa Fraud Claim

By CELESTE NIXON Tribune Staff Reporter cnixon@tribunemedia.net PLP MP Fred Mitchell moved quickly to file a lawsuit yesterday after a Wikileaks document claiming the Fox Hill MP pressured Foreign Affairs staff to grant visas to 30 ineligible Chinese nationals was tabled in the Senate. The document details a conversation between a senior Foreign Affairs official and a former US Embassy consular chief, in which it was claimed the visa applicants were sponsored by former PLP MP Sidney Stubbs. The civil servant accused Mr Mitchell, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, of "complicity in visa fraud by pressuring his staff to issue visas to ineligible visa applicants and, specifically, to unqualified Chinese nationals," the embassy official wrote in his cable to the State Department. The Foreign Affairs staffer claimed Mr Mitchell and Mr Stubbs said the applicants represented several businesses in China - but that in all but one case, a check turned up no record of these companies existing. Denying the accusations in a statement yesterday, Mr Mitchell said he demands an apology from FNM Senator Dion Foulkes, who tabled the document. He said Mr Foulkes put forward false allegations made by a "disgruntled employee". During his speech, Mr Foulkes said come election day, Bahamians will remember that under the last PLP administration, "a senior consular officer reported to the United States Embassy that 'visas were being issued to patently ineligible applicants'." He said voters will remember "that the officer also alleged that a senior PLP cabinet minister 'received a portion of whatever fee the Chinese nationals paid for the visa'." According to the US Embassy cable, Mr Stubbs invited the 30 Chinese nationals, purported to be high-level managers at large Chinese corporations, to the Bahamas for business. However, a search by the Chinese Embassy in the Bahamas, conducted at the request of ministry staff, revealed no record of any of the companies in question with the exception of one - described as a small "mom and pop operation" in China. Following the staff's decision to decline the applications on this basis, the civil servant claimed, Mr Mitchell appointed another official who would have authority to overturn denied visa applications, but this provoked a strike at the consular division when staff members walked off the job. The document noted the strike was widely reported in the local media but was attributed to administrative issues. Mr Foulkes told the senate outrages such as the "Chinese visa scandal" will cause the PLP to lose the upcoming election. He said: "When overseas students and government workers go to the polls to vote, they will remember the shame and scandal which the PLP and Perry Christie brought to this country. "They will remember the Harachi scandal, where a foreign investor said he gave the PLP $10 million in exchange for a promise of a bank licence. The PLP never gave him the bank licence and he left the Bahamas. He made other allegations which I will deal with later." Mr Foulkes said voters will also remember Mr Christie's promise to conduct a forensic accounting report and tell the public "exactly how much money Harachi gave him and the PLP". He said: "As is the norm with Perry Christie, we never saw the forensic report because he never intended to do one. Just talk. It isn't too late for him to fulfil this promise to the Bahamian people." Mr Foulkes also accused PLP deputy leader Philip Davis of "telling lies" about people - and advised him to "remember the airport scandal where heavy equipment was grounded by the police because it was purchased from the proceeds of drug trafficking. I believe one of the tractors is still behind the Airport Police Station". Mr Foulkes, who will represent the FNM in Yamacraw in the upcoming election, noted that the opposition held a meeting in that constituency this week. He said: "My name was called more than the PLP candidate's name. It is obvious to all that the PLP intends to run a negative campaign. What they said about me was all lies. But I don't expect anything different from them. "They are not going to address the issues. I predict that they will continue to lie on FNM candidates because that is what their advisers from the United States have told them to do." In his response to Mr Foulkes' speech, Mr Mitchell said: "Today, well worn stories were repeated by a government minister quoting a disgruntled employee about me as Minister of Foreign Affairs. The stories are totally and absolutely untrue. "A writ is being filed and this is being issued against that employee for repeating false, malicious allegations. "The allegations are in every particular untrue, false and misleading. I demand a retraction and apology from the minister from forthwith for repeating these false statements in public if he has any decency."

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