The twin island state became embroiled in the scandal after court documents revealed that a high-level government official accepted millions of dollars in bribes.
The revelation was made as investigation continues into corruption at global construction conglomerate, Odebrecht, based in Brazil, the same company which court documents show acquired Meinl Bank Antigua in 2010
On Wednesday Prime Minister Gaston Browne dismissed Honorary Consul to Brazil Luis Franca and also asked James to explain his involvement in the scandal.
According to court documents – “In or about mid-2015, Odebrecht Employee 4 attended a meeting in Miami, Florida, with a consular official from Antigua and an intermediary to a high-level government official, in Antigua, in order to conceal Odebrecht’s corrupt activities.”
The revelation was made as investigation continues into corruption at global construction conglomerate, Odebrecht, based in Brazil, the same company which court documents show acquired Meinl Bank Antigua in 2010.
In a press statement, James admitted to receiving payments from Meinl Bank but said this was based on his work as an independent consultant.
He also denied knowing that his client was involved in any alleged illegal activity “nor did I have reason to believe, that Meinl Bank was in any way affiliated to Odebrecht.”
Odebrecht, reportedly, purchased Meinl Bank allegedly to pay bribes to government officials in about a dozen countries.
James who said that he is the sole principal of Global residence and Advisory Services Ltd as well as an authorized and licensed CIP agent, said he attended a meeting in Miami in that capacity and “not as an agent of the Antigua and Barbuda Government or an agent for any Antiguan government official. I attended the Miami meeting in a personal and professional capacity.
He said that attended a meeting with Luis Franca, who was Antigua & Barbuda’s Honourary Consul to Brazil for more than 10 years, on a matter relating to Meinl Bank’s involvement with a CIP project.
“As an outcome of that meeting, my company entered into an agreement with an affiliate of Meinl Bank (Antigua) Ltd, in which my company would act as an agent and advisor for the purposes of processing CIP applications associated with Meinl Bank Ltd’s CIP project…..this agreement was made on 1st October 2015,” t he release stated.
James said that pursuant to that agreement, professional consultancy services were provided by his company and certain advance payments were also made. He said that the last payment was made in December 2015.
James was officially appointed as Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates in July 2016.
He said that based on the allegations made by the US Government in court papers he has agreement to repay money paid to him for independent consultancy work.
“So as to ensure that the integrity of my office as Ambassador is in no way compromised (and by extension the good name of Antigua and Barbuda), and in discussion with my attorney, I have instructed that 100 per cent of the custodial funds being held on account for the stated CIP purpose be immediately returned to the remitter.”
He added that the funds received by his company were pursuant to a business agreement entered into with good faith.
“Despite by best efforts to carry out my services under the consultancy contract, the application process stalled partly due to lack of compete due diligence information from the potential applicants. The agreement was not part of any scheme whereby my company or I agreed to do anything unlawful, including withholding banking information relating to illicit bribery payments.”
The statement from the Ambassador was issued only hours after Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced the dismissal of the honorary consul.
On Wednesday, during a news conference, Browne, threatened to dismiss James, insisting that his administration was not aware of the court case in the United States or the allegations made by a witness in the case until a regional newspaper journalist contacted his office.
Browne said he had dismissed Honorary Consul Luis Franca and asked James, for an explanation.
“In fact I have taken the decision to relieve Mr. Luis Franca of his position as Honorary Consul immediately and I have actually taken the position that if Ambassador Casroy James is unable to provide a satisfactory explanation as to why, if any money has been paid to him, that he too, will be relieved of his position”.
While Browne was not specific in his reasons for dismissing the Honorary Consul or asking the diplomat for an explanation, last week, the government issued a statement indicating that it was intent on getting “to the bottom of this story since it alleges involvement by persons claiming to be intermediaries for, or officials of, the government.
“If these allegations are substantiated, I will act immediately and appropriately against any such persons”, Prime Minister Browne was quoted as saying in the statement.
The court document notes that in mid- 2015, an employee of the Brazilian company attended a meeting in Miami “with a consular official from Antigua and an intermediary to a high-level government official in Antigua in order to conceal Odebrecht’s corrupt activities.”
It said that the employee “requested that the high-level official refrain from providing to international authorities various banking documents that would reveal illicit payments made by the Division of Structured Operations on behalf of Odebrecht, and agreed to pay four million US dollars to the high-level official to refrain from sending the documents.”
The document added that another employee of the Brazilian company “made three payments of one million Euros on behalf of Odebrecht in order to secure the deal. The contemplated fourth payment was never made”.
Browne told reporters that contrary to reports on social media, he has not received any bribes.
In July, the government publicly advised that ONDCP and the Financial Services Regulatory Commission (FSRC) had frozen the accounts of a Brazilian-owned offshore bank that has been in operation since 2006”
In the July 15 statement, the government announced that it had frozen the accounts of a Brazilian-owned offshore bank that has been in operation since 2006.
Last week, Prime Minister Browne announced that the country’s Ambassador to the United States, Ronald Sanders had “advised the US State Department of the steps that were being taken in Antigua”.
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