Mystery surrounds removal of Kingston billionaire’s knighthood

Nadhmi Auchi, arriving at the Palais de Justice, France's highest court, for his trial in May 2003
Above: Nadhmi Auchi enters the Palais de Justice, France’s highest court, for his 2003 trial
Photo:Rex Features

One of Kingston’s most enigmatic residents has been stripped of a knighthood he received in Antigua in 2014 .

In November 2014, billionaire businessman Nadhmi Auchi, 79, was appointed a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of the Nation of Antigua and Barbuda, an honour awarded by the tropical island paradise that is part of the Commonwealth.

Earlier this year, after discussions with the United Kingdom’s then-prime minister David Cameron, the Governor-General of Antigua and Barbuda Sir Rodney Williams wrote to Mr Auchi, saying: “I am hereby withdrawing the honour bestowed upon you until further notice.”

In that letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Kingston Courier, Sir Rodney told Mr Auchi: “Some information has come to our attention suggesting that we do a more detailed due diligence on some persons on whom honours have been bestowed.”

No further explanation was given in Sir Rodney’s letter, which was dated 25 May 2016 but did not come to light at the time.

British-Iraqi Auchi – who lives in Coombe Park, a gated residential complex on Kingston Hill – was approached by the Courier but did not reply.

Auchi was convicted of corruption in 2003, for his part in the Elf Aquitaine oil scandal. He was fined around £1.4 million and received a 15-month suspended jail sentence, after French investigators found he had taken illegal commissions, via his Luxembourg-based company General Mediterranean Holdings, on Elf’s purchase of a refinery in the early 1990s.

Auchi has always denied any wrongdoing.

The Courier put inquiries about the removal of Auchi’s knighthood to the Cabinet Office of the British Government and to the office of the Governor-General of Antigua and Barbuda. Both offices declined to comment.

Antigua and Barbuda were once part of the British Empire, and joined the Commonwealth in 1981, making Queen Elizabeth II the head of state of the islands.

Although the honours systems of Britain and the tropical islands are connected and both sets of titles are bestowed in the name of the Queen, the systems are constitutionally separate, meaning that Auchi’s Antiguan knighthood was not recognised in the United Kingdom.

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