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ANTIGUA-Gov't fires diplomat as corruption probe continues

Featured ANTIGUA-Gov't fires diplomat as corruption probe continues
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, Dec 28, CMC – Prime Minister Gaston Browne Wednesday announced the dismissal of an honorary consul as his administration continues its investigations into claims linking it to corrupt activities related to the Brazilian multinational, Odebrecht S. A. and the energy company, Petrobras.

Browne, speaking at a news conference here, has also threatened to dismiss another diplomat 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 his office was contacted by a regional newspaper journalist.

Browne said he had dismissed Honorary Consul Luis Franca and has asked the Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Casroy James, for an explanation. Browne did not say to which country the consul was accredited and a look at the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not list his name among the honorary consuls.

browne-at-news-conference

“We cannot escape the fact that certain allegations were made that funds were paid to an individual. That is a matter of some concern to my government.

“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.

“I believe that the ONDCP (Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy) will be issuing a statement today to confirm that no one in my government including myself or made any attempt whatsoever to the ONDCP, to low level staff, high level …to conceal or to frustrate the flow of information.

“And the fact will show that we acted at all times with propriety. So I hope that that issue in so far as any speculation involving the Office of the Prime Minister or me personally would be put to bed.”

Browne said that his administration has also been cooperating with US authorities, adding “truth be told there were times when …information has not been dealt with as expeditiously as they ought to, not because of any deliberate attempt to frustrate the flow of information but because of limited human resources.

“But the evidence in this particular case is that at all times the information was sent and was sent within a reasonable time,” Browne told reporters.

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”.

  • Countries: Antigua_Barbuda

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