Former St Lucia minister sues over US visa revocation
On Tuesday, attorneys for former Saint Lucia housing minister Richard Frederick filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Washington, DC, claiming compensatory and punitive damages of $25 million in relation to the revocation in 2011 of his diplomatic and non-immigrant US visas.
Named as defendants in the action are Andrea Hillyer, a State Department employee at the US Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados; Susan Chainer, a former legal attaché at the same embassy; Eugene Sweeney, consul general at the embassy; George Deterville, the head of security for the prime minister of Saint Lucia; and two unnamed State Department employees.
The lawsuit has been expected for some months, following a Caribbean News Now article published in September 2013, which has itself been referred to, and attached as one of the exhibits to the 18-page complaint.
Frederick is represented by well known Washington lawyer and former US Attorney Joe DiGenova, whose firm has been researching and preparing the case for a number of months before this week’s filing.
DiGenova explained this week that this was a very unusual case since the action for damages is brought in the name of the United States as plaintiff “for the use of Richard Frederick”.
The complaint comprises three counts:
First, that defendant Hillyer procured in 2011 the revocations of Frederick’s B1/B2 and A1 diplomatic visas at the behest of defendant Chainer and Frederick’s political enemies in Saint Lucia constituted willful malfeasance, abuse of power, and corrupt conduct in her office, and that the actions of the first unnamed defendant in revoking Frederick’s visas at the behest of defendants Hillyer and Chainer, and Frederick’s political enemies in Saint Lucia constitute willful malfeasance, abuse of power, and corrupt conduct in his office.
Second, that the actions of unnamed defendant 2 in denying Frederick’s subsequent application for an immigrant visa, on the basis of knowingly false allegations, constituted willful malfeasance, abuse of power, and corrupt conduct in his office.
Third, that defendants Hillyer , Chainer, Sweeney, Deterville, the two unnamed defendants, and other unnamed co-conspirators within the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) and at the State Department headquarters in Washington, DC, formed an agreement to commit a wrongful act: to wit, to interfere in local Saint Lucia politics and to embarrass and humiliate Frederick by procuring in August 2011 the revocations of Frederick’s B1/B2 and A1 diplomatic visas to the United States on false information and without cause, and by continuing Frederick’s embarrassment and humiliation by denying in October 2012 his immigrant visa application. The object of this conspiracy was to cause consular officers to engage in acts of willful malfeasance, abuse of power, and corrupt conduct in their offices.
“An innocent man was falsely accused. This is his vindication,” DiGenova said on Tuesday.
Asked for comment on Tuesday’s filing, Richard Frederick said, “I have every confidence in the American justice system and in my legal representatives, who are among the very best in the United States. I expect that justice will not only be done but will be seen to be done.”
As previously reported it is believed that Frederick’s visa was revoked as a result of false information supplied by members of the SLP, then in opposition, in combination with a local propaganda campaign designed to tarnish Frederick’s reputation locally.
While these efforts were successful in having Frederick’s visa revoked, his personal political popularity apparently remained undiminished, although the news of the revocation of his visa may have played a part in his United Workers Party (UWP) being defeated in the 2011 general elections.
In particular, Prime Minister Kenny Anthony, then leader of the opposition, campaigned in the last general election on a promise, if elected, to make public the reasons behind the revocation of Frederick’s US visa. He has not yet done so since being re-elected to office in November 2011.
Frederick himself was returned as the parliamentary representative for Castries Central.
The events and circumstances leading up to the revocation of Frederick’s visas are described in detail in the complaint filed on Tuesday, including the alleged activities of defendant George Deterville, an SLP operative and a former police superintendent, who presently works in Prime Minister Anthony’s office.
Around the time of the 2011 visa revocations, Deterville is alleged to have been involved in an improper personal relationship with defendant Chainer, a former US Embassy official, who had worked in the Bridgetown Embassy, where she is said to maintain contacts and influence.
According to the complaint, Chainer, at Deterville’s urging, conspired with US Embassy officials, including defendants Hillyer, Sweeney, and the first unnamed defendant to create a false and improper basis for revoking Frederick’s visas, and then to revoke those visas to cause political embarrassment to Frederick for the political gain of the SLP and Deterville.
Sweeney, in his position as Consul General, supervised the embassy officials responsible for the improper revocation of Frederick’s visas. In his supervisory capacity, Sweeney would have been consulted and approved the revocation of the B1/B2 and A1 diplomatic visas of a sitting Member of Parliament and Cabinet-level minister such as Frederick.
The SLP operatives, and the US embassy consular officials who conspired with them, were also allegedly aware that the decision to revoke Frederick’s visas is not reviewable under US law and that they could therefore deny Frederick any chance for adjudication or vindication.
“It was the perfect political crime to commit against a respected Saint Lucian politician and lawyer,” the complaint says.