- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2006

NASSAU, Bahamas — Anna Nicole Smith has become an election-season liability for the Bahamian government, which has had to defend its decision to grant her permanent residency while the former reality TV star fights eviction from a posh waterfront mansion.

Miss Smith’s quick path to Bahamian residency and the high priority given to an investigation into her son’s mysterious death are eclipsing the economy and other issues as the island chain prepares for general elections next year.

The former Playboy playmate moved to the Bahamas in July and gave birth to a daughter in September with little public fanfare. That changed when her 20-year-old son, Daniel, died while visiting his mother at the hospital three days after the baby was born. A private examiner concluded Mr. Smith died from a lethal combination of methadone and antidepressants.

Miss Smith has since dominated local press coverage and political discussion in the archipelago southeast of Florida.

Charges of special treatment surfaced after the head coroner scheduled an inquest three days after Mr. Smith’s death, despite a backlog of requests for inquests into the deaths of ordinary, non-celebrity Bahamians. The outcry prompted officials to reassign the head coroner, and the formal inquest still has not been held.

Opposition lawmakers, meanwhile, have called for the resignation of Immigration Minister Shane Gibson, who approved Miss Smith’s residency application based on her claim of ownership of a waterfront mansion. Now it turns out the mansion might not be hers after all.

“She’s had a tremendous impact on our politics, and she’s not going away and the scandal isn’t going away,” said Arthur Foulkes, a newspaper columnist and former Cabinet minister.

Mr. Gibson personally processed Miss Smith’s residency request, but denies opposition claim that he went to the mansion to collect the $10,000 application fee.

“No check was ever personally collected by me … in connection with Ms. Anna Nicole Smith,” Mr. Gibson insisted. “Anything to the contrary is a vicious lie conceived in ignorance and spread in wickedness.”

Prime Minister Perry Christie defended Mr. Gibson in September, denouncing the contention that the minister collected the check as “an outrageous lie.” But Mr. Christie has not commented publicly on the case since the ownership of the house was called into question.

Miss Smith claimed to own “Horizons,” a gated, waterfront mansion where she has remained largely secluded since her son’s death. But a South Carolina businessman has sued her, saying she failed to make payments on the nearly $1 million mortgage.

Mr. Gibson, fending off demands by the main opposition Free National Movement that he resign, told Parliament that any inaccuracies in her case should be blamed on the lawyers who prepared Miss Smith’s residency application.

Miss Smith’s Bahamian attorney, Wayne Munroe, said politics had blown the dispute out of proportion.

Mr. Christie is obligated to call elections next year. The ruling Progressive Liberal Party will be seeking its second consecutive five-year term in office.

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