Kenny dishes on
Peugeot Cars, Gold Rolexes, The Great Satan, & Gilbert Chagoury!
L et it never be said that on the occasion of January 30, 2003 de partee was guilty of false advertising. For two days there had been the often-repeated radio promos: “Come and hear about Cable & Wireless, Gilbert Chagoury and the plot to unseat your government.” Just about two years earlier the Kenny Anthony government had started its second consecutive term in office.
On the evening in question, the government’s more prominent orators had in turn taken their places on the steps of the Castries market. Of course all had carefully sidestepped the shocking revelations of the Crime Commission’s latest report, released mere hours before the night’s rally got underway. Surprisingly, it was not Mario Michel who landed the job of selling the djab en sac. That particular assignment the party leader and prime minister Kenny Anthony reserved for himself.
Throughout the brouhaha that had preceded Bill Clinton’s visit a week or so before the rally, the prime minister had been next to invisible. The special press announcements, the meetings with media representatives, the headlinemaking assertions, details of the special dinner at Sandals Grande, had all come out of the mouth of Mario Michel. Perhaps the prime
minister had been less than impressed by Michel’s public relations skills, not to say his appearance on Timothy Poleon’s Newsmaker Live.
“When Bill Clinton visited, the whole world turned its attention to Saint Lucia,” the prime minister hyperbolized. “But when the whole world is watching, what they see could be our best face or our worst.”
He held aloft a handful of notes but offered not the smallest hint that the overseas media had taken any interest in the special occasion. During a stopover in Jamaica, he said, his official counterparts had showered him with praise.
“Everyone wanted to know how we were able to arrange Bill Clinton’s visit,” he added, to wild applause from his proud market-steps audience. Referring to Sir John Compton, he said: “A former prime minister of this country actually told Bill Clinton that if he came to Saint Lucia he would devalue himself. What he was really saying is that you, the people of this country, are worth nothing. Who would have thought a former prime minister would have such contempt for his people that he governed for over 30 years?”
Additionally: “They say the $37,000 or thereabouts that we spent on entertainment for Bill Clinton was a waste of money. Just a few days after his visit Bill Clinton made it possible for us to purchase drugs costing millions of dollars for citizens suffering with HIV/AIDS.”
As for the secrecy that had surrounded Gilbert Chagoury’s involvement, Kenny Anthony let it be known that it was a UWP administration that had appointed Chagoury as this country’s UNESCO ambassador. “But just because he played a role in bringing Clinton here the visit was compromised? Something was not right about it?”
When the Labour Party first came into office in 1997, he explained, all ambassadorial appointments were reviewed. “For the sake of continuity the government decided to keep existing appointments until such time as we thought otherwise. Chagoury was one of the appointments we retained.”
Why? “Petrus Compton will tell you that one day he was called to a meeting at a local hotel by Compton and his wife Janice. They told him he should no longer accept that appointment in Paris because they had found someone to represent Saint Lucia. That person was Gilbert Chagoury.”
It was not quite clear whether Kenny Anthony meant to say his predecessor had earlier chosen Petrus Compton to serve as the nation’s UNESCO ambassador in Paris. But if indeed he had been appointed in John Compton’s time, why then had Petrus never left Saint Lucia and was still here when Kenny Anthony took office nearly two years after the appointment?
Anthony went on: “They claimed they were advised to appoint Chagoury at the urging of the Catholic Church, which had close ties with the prime minister. Petrus Compton said he had no objection to being replaced since he wasn’t all that keen on the appointment, anyway.”
More clouds of confusion: If Petrus Compton did not want the job, why had he accepted it in the first place? Who were “they” that had been directed by the Catholic Church? Mr. and Mrs. John Compton? Who exactly had done the urging? The Pope?
We come now to the part that most mattered. “Chagoury is a rich man,” said Kenny Anthony sounding like the man’s accountant. “He is an extremely rich man. So rich, that when John Compton visited him in Paris and was driven around in a top of the line Peugeot 605, he liked it so much that he complimented Chagoury on its quality.”
By Kenny Anthony’s telling on the steps of the Castries market, Chagoury’s response was: “You like it? Would you like one?” Still by Anthony’s account, with no back-up evidence, “Chagoury later donated a Peugeot to Saint Lucia. When we got into office in 1997 it was suggested to me that the car was a personal gift to John Compton. I said, no way. I got in touch with Chagoury’s staff and found out that the car was donated to the government and people of Saint Lucia. I then made it clear the car would stay at the prime minister’s residence.” Applause! Applause! Applause! “When you see a Peugeot passing with a government crest on it,” Kenny Anthony went, “that’s the car. Your car.”
Several questions arise from the immediately above. Those who knew Compton well doubtless will be surprised to read Kenny Anthony’s quoted revelations from the steps of the Castries market on the evening of Thursday, 30 January 2003. There had never been anything ostentatious about John Compton. He was never known to be flashy. Throughout his life he had driven himself around in rusty junk heaps; old iron. In all events, it was not John Compton that Kenny Anthony replaced in 1997. Compton had resigned as prime minister in 1996. The undeniable fact is that whether the cited Peugeot was a gift to Compton or to the nation, it arrived in Saint Lucia too late
to be of much use to the prime minister.
Forty-eight hours after the Peugeot landed here Compton vacated his office, to be replaced by Vaughan Lewis on All Fools. As best as I’ve been able to establish, the Peugeot was soon afterward assigned to the foreign affairs ministry.
As if further to prove “Chagoury is an extremely rich man,” on the remembered evening on Jeremie Street Kenny Anthony held up correspondence he claimed George Odlum had addressed to Gilbert Chagoury, and in which Odlum begged the ambassador for close to a million dollars “for the development of the La Clery playing field.”
Impersonating the marketsteps vernacular, this was how Kenny Anthony turned George Odlum’s name into ashes: “You are writing to Chagoury to go and identify funds for you and that is not what you are really after. What you are really after is the man’s money!” By Anthony’s recall, “the great Satan” did not receive a favorable response from the extremely rich man. Chagoury advised Odlum that he took his instructions only from Mario Michel, who in turn took his instructions from the prime minister.
“Odlum went berserk,” Anthony recalled, “and all hell broke loose. From then on he fingered Chagoury. He arranged for a letter to be written by someone in the Nigerian embassy in Paris, suggesting that Chagoury was involved in money laundering and stealing the Nigerian government’s money.”
Arranged for a letter to be written by someone! The verifiable truth is that there were at the time, as now, scores of accessible stories on the Internet that linked Chagoury with the notorious Abacha regime. A tidbit on Abacha, courtesy Encyclopedia Britannica: “[Nigerian] elections were held in 1993 and won by Moshood Abiola. However, he annulled the elections and set up a civilian interim government, which Abacha easily overthrew. He banned political activity of any kind, fired a large portion of the military, controlled the press, and assembled a personal security force of some 3000. He brutally suppressed dissent at home.”
More on AbachaChagoury, this time according to Wikipedia: “Chagoury was a close associate of Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha who helped his business interests in the country. After Abacha died in 1998, Chagoury returned an estimated US$3 million to the Nigerian government to secure his indemnity from possible criminal charges.”
Odlum had discovered in early 1997 the AbachaChagoury connections and tried in vain to discourage his Cabinet colleagues from any association with Chagoury. It is a matter of record that Kenny Anthony’s first overseas trip upon becoming prime minister was as a guest of the “extremely rich man.”
From the steps of the Castries market on the revisited evening in February 2003, the SLP leader addressed his flock as follows: “Would Bill Clinton maintain a relationship with a man who is said to be a money launderer and corrupt? Would Clinton risk it? Would Clinton risk the reputation of his wife?”
Most of these questions have officially been answered by United States authorities. As for that relating to Clinton’s wife, it was answered long before the impeached Bill Clinton’s visit to Saint Lucia— as it turned out, all expenses paid by his controversially close friend Gilbert Chagoury!
Coincidentally, perhaps, Kenny Anthony had asked similar questions in defense of his own relationship with a certain Jack Grynberg reputation: “Why would Grenada and St. Vincent engage him if he was a con artist?” We know now the answer, if we didn’t know it when the question was asked!
But speaking of gifts: Shortly after his party lost the 2005 general elections, Kenny Anthony accepted a brand new Pajero jeep from wellheeled Vieux Fort business people, one of whom told the
STAR it was the group’s way of showing appreciation to the then opposition leader for all he had done for them, both as their constituency representative and as leader of government. Local laws make such touching demonstrations of appreciation illegal: officials may not accept rewards for doing or not doing what taxpayers pay them to do. Incidentally, Kenny Anthony had also accused George Odlum of keeping for himself a gold Rolex watch intended as a gift from a foreign government to the people of Saint Lucia!
Shortly before the 2016 general elections, Kenny Anthony bestowed on Gilbert Chagoury our nation’s highest honor—The Saint Lucia Cross. On the occasion he said: “Serving Saint Lucia has been a great privilege, considering the quality of its leaders . . .”
Leaders all. Left to right: Sir John Compton (deceased), Kenny Anthony, Vaughan Lewis and Gilbert Chagoury, holder of the nation’s most prestigious award: The Saint Lucia Cross!