Attorney Says Immigration Minister Should Resign:
By Quincy Parker -
Minister of Labour and Immigration Shane Gibson misled the prime minister and the country over the Anna Nicole Smith permanent residency matter, according to lawyer Michael Scott, who said the minister should do the honourable thing and resign.
Mr. Scott made that assertion to the Journal after asserting that Anna Nicole Smith does not own a home in The Bahamas, or at least not the million-dollar Eastern Road waterfront mansion she was staying in called "Horizons."
However, when asked about the claims, Director of the Department of Immigration Vernon Burrows said that Ms. Smith – whose real name is Vicky Lynn Hogan Marshall – is a legal permanent resident.
"As far as the Department of Immigration is concerned, she is the owner of the house," Mr. Burrows said. "We have received no evidence otherwise."
Mr. Burrows pointed out that it was on the basis of the evidence in hand that Ms. Smith was granted permanent residency in The Bahamas, without the right to work.
"As far as Immigration is concerned, she is a permanent resident of The Bahamas, having gained it through home ownership," Mr. Burrows asserted.
But Mr. Scott, who at one time represented Ms. Smith but ended the relationship citing a commercial transaction, told the Journal on Friday that ownership of the home had officially reverted to South Carolina-based developer G. Ben Thompson.
And, on the question of the cheque for Ms. Smith’s permanent residency fee, Mr. Scott was adamant.
"There is no question that (Minister Gibson personally) received the cheque," he said. "That is a fact. I say that without a scintilla of doubt."
The lawyer insisted that Minister Gibson personally received the cheque on September 20 at about 7pm at the Horizons residence.
After making repeated statements on the matter, Minister Gibson on Friday referred the Journal to Director Burrows for comment, saying he did not wish to get drawn further into the matter any further.
In fact, Mr. Scott said Ms. Smith never had legal title to the home.
In the wake of an allegedly consistent refusal to honour an alleged obligation to pay for the house, he reiterated that Ms. Smith has been asked to vacate the premises by October 31.
Mr. Scott explained that the documentation the Department of Immigration relied on to make the determination of status for Ms. Smith was "incomplete." He said the Department’s claim that it had documentation showing that Ms. Scott owned the house was true "at the time."
Minister Gibson told the House of Assembly last week that the department’s file included a conveyance granting title of the house to Ms. Smith, from the law firm of Callenders and Company, where Mr. Scott is a partner.
He pointed out that the agreement between Mr. Thompson and Ms. Smith called for her to execute a mortgage to pay Mr. Thompson back the million dollars he paid for the residence.
According to Mr. Scott, she refused to do so after being asked on at least four occasions to honour the agreement, leading to potentially serious consequences for her.
"Once she refused to execute the mortgage, I could no longer represent her," Mr. Scott said, finally explaining explicitly why he stopped representing Ms. Smith, "because my primary client is Ben Thompson."
Mr. Scott took issue with the minister seeking to lay the blame for any misconduct or impropriety in this increasingly contentious matter at the feet of the law firm.
"He is trying to transfer blame to us for something his department failed to do," Mr. Scott said, indicating that the Department of Immigration ought to have had supporting documentation.
Mr. Scott insisted that the department would not be able to produce any documentation in which they ask for proof of ownership of the Horizons residence.
According to Mr. Scott, the money for the house came from South Carolina real estate developer G. Ben Thompson, who pre-dates Anna Nicole Smith as his client. He said that Mr. Thompson bought the house, but at the last minute decided to transfer the title to Ms. Smith in order to assist her.
However, he said that Ms. Smith had agreed to pay Mr. Thompson for the house. He said he had seen evidence that Ms. Smith acknowledged the debt.
Mr. Scott said that she had been asked for the money on four occasions, and after the last refusal to pay, Mr. Thompson appears to have had enough.
"He instructed me to cancel the conveyance in escrow, and to prepare a fresh conveyance in his name, which has been done, and stamped," he said.
So, while Ms. Smith may have appeared to own the home, Mr. Scott contends that she never did, and that she does not now.
On the question of the conflict of interest suggestions raised by observers who note that Callenders has represented both Ms. Smith and Mr. Thompson, Mr. Scott explained that he was representing Mr. Thompson in the purchase of the home, and Ms. Smith came into the matter later.
He said that he had been asked by Mr. Thompson and an associate, both of whom were friends of Ms. Smith, to act on her behalf after the tragic sudden death of her 20-year-old son Daniel.
Daniel’s death sparked a number of changes on the face of things, including the dismantling of the Coroner’s Court, a cross-border police investigation and allegations of an improper relationship between a Cabinet minister (Minister Gibson) and a private individual seeking permanent residency.
The controversy swirling around Anna Nicole Smith seems to continue unabated. She has so far not made contact with an attorney for her ex-boyfriend, Larry Birkhead, who insists that he is the father of Ms. Smith’s daughter Dannielynn Hope.
Mr. Birkhead had originally sued Ms. Smith in California, demanding that she submit Dannielynn Hope to a paternity test.
He has now filed a new lawsuit here that apparently alleges that Ms. Smith provided fraudulent information when she applied for residency in The Bahamas as she identified her daughter’s father as being her American attorney, Howard K. Stern.
According to reports, Ms. Birkhead’s lawyer Debra Opri said: "It will be up to this government entity to pursue any criminal investigation against either Anna Nicole Smith and or Howard K. Stern."
30 October 2006