The Attorney-General’s Office has become aware that, yesterday, Ramon “Hushpuppi” Abbas was sentenced to be imprisoned for 135 months in a federal prison in the United States for his role in an international fraud syndicate. As a part of the official press release from the Department of Justice in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, the following was stated:
“Approximately $50,000 of proceeds from the scheme [in which Hushpuppi duped the victim businessperson into paying approximately $330,000] were used to fraudulently acquire a St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis citizenship and a passport for Abbas through a sham marriage to a St. Kitts citizen.”
The Attorney-General’s Office therefore wishes to update the general public on the status of the local investigation into the said alleged “sham marriage” and resultant issuance of St. Kitts & Nevis Citizenship to “Hushpuppi”. In July 2021, law enforcement authorities in the United States contacted the Royal Saint Christopher and Nevis Police Force (“RSCNPF”) to provide information about Hushpuppi’s alleged criminal activities in St Kitts. A formal investigation was launched by the RSCNPF.
The RSCNPF, in September 2021, prepared a draft Request for Assistance from the United States in the investigation of Hushpuppi pursuant to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (“MLAT Request”). This MLAT Request sought to obtain formal evidence from the United States to assist the local RSCNPF investigation, which has implicated persons residing in the United States and persons residing in St Kitts. The then Director of Public Prosecutions swiftly provided his input and the MLAT Request was then forwarded to the Attorney-General’s Office, which is the competent state entity responsible for sending MLAT Requests to foreign states/countries.
The draft MLAT Request dated September 15, 2021 thereafter remained unapproved by the then Attorney-General. On October 21, 2022, after an inquiry into the status of the investigation by the current Attorney-General, he was provided with a copy of the drafted MLAT Request and has been in direct communication with the RSCNPF to finalize it for forwarding to the United States.
The Commissioner of Police stated publicly on February 11, 2022 that the RSCPF “sent some information…in terms of doing an MLAT [Mutual and Legal Agreement Treaty] to get evidence from the United States of America. We [the Police] cannot go to make a request. Our legal person would have to ask the competent authority in the USA to ask them for the evidence. Whatever we can do here, we will do until we get the other evidence.”
The RSCPF has confirmed that the investigation is ongoing, but the delayed MLAT Request has decelerated its progress.
On August 5, 2021 in the National Assembly, the former Prime Minister stated that “[t]he matter of the revocation of Mr. Abbas’ citizenship has been put before our Attorney General for advice and guidance.” However, the Attorney-General’s Office has been unable to locate any such file.
The Attorney-General’s Office is actively taking steps to arrange for the swift transmission of the MLAT Request to ensure that the local RSCPF investigation can be concluded and, if necessary, in the views of the RSCPF and Director of Public Prosecutions, persons involved in this alleged “sham” citizenship by marriage scheme can be charged and brought to justice in St Kitts & Nevis. The Attorney-General’s Office will also swiftly advise the Prime Minister and Minister of National Security as to his options with respect to Hushpuppi’s citizenship.