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Feb. 13, 2007, 11:27AM
Official responds to bedroom photos with Anna Nicole

NASSAU, Bahamas The Bahamas immigration minister denied that his friendship with Anna Nicole Smith influenced his decision to grant her permanent residency after a newspaper ran photos of him in bed with the former Playboy Playmate.

The front-page pictures on Monday showed Smith and Immigration Minister Shane Gibson, both fully clothed, embracing on a bed decorated with pink flowers and a white ribbon. In one of the photos, they look into each other's eyes, their faces only a couple of inches apart.

The 39-year-old Smith had been living in the Bahamas before she died Thursday in Florida. Her claim to an island mansion, which is now in dispute, was the basis for her residency application.

Gibson, an elected member of Parliament from the ruling Progressive Liberal Party, has already been accused of showing Smith preferential treatment by fast-tracking her residency application last year and the photos revived the scandal, with some demanding he resign.

Asked by a local TV station whether his friendship with Smith helped speed her application through the approval process, Gibson replied: "Absolutely not." The interview was broadcast late Monday.

Smith's death opened up a three-way paternity dispute over her 5-month-old daughter and questions of who owns the waterfront mansion she claimed she had received as a gift from a developer from South Carolina.

An inquest into the death of her 20-year-old son Daniel is also pending. He died while visiting his mother and newborn half-sister in a Bahamas hospital in September.

A private pathologist has said methadone contributed to Daniel Smith's death.

Gibson said he and his family became especially close to Smith after her son died.

"Whenever a stranger is in need I find it very difficult to turn my back," he said.

Opposition leader Hubert Ingraham called Monday for police to investigate Gibson's role in the granting of residency to Smith.

Cassius Stuart, leader of the Bahamas Democratic Movement, said Gibson has "shamed" the Bahamas and called for him to resign.

Smith's most recent companion, Howard K. Stern, said Gibson and his family supported Smith after her son died.

"They came to the house to pray with us on too many occasions to count," Stern said in a statement released by Entertainment Tonight.

The Bahamas granted permanent residency to Smith based on her claim of ownership of the $900,000 house. Smith claimed the developer G. Ben Thompson, a former boyfriend, had given it to her as a gift. But Thompson says it belongs to him because he had loaned Smith money to buy it and she had not paid the debt.

On Monday, Ford Shelley, Thompson's son-in-law, said he found methadone in Smith's bedroom refrigerator when he went to secure the disputed Bahamas mansion after she died.

Stern has since reclaimed the mansion and is staying there with Smith's baby, Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern.

Stern said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight scheduled to air Tuesday that he is the executor of a will drafted for Smith that is to leave everything to the girl.

Stern is listed on a birth certificate as Dannielynn's father. Two other men have challenged the paternity claim.

A former boyfriend, Larry Birkhead, has filed a lawsuit claiming he is the father.

Prince Frederic von Anhalt, the husband of the actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, has said he had a decade-long affair with Smith and may be the father. He said Monday he plans to file a paternity challenge in court and wants a DNA test.

Since the death in 1995 of her 90-year-old husband, Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II, Smith had been waging a court battle over his estate.

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