POLITICAL PRESS RELEASE:: The UPP is unimpressed with PM Browne’s latest statement that defends the legitimacy of the business relationship between Casroy James and Odebrecht, an affiliate of the Meinl Bank.
Labeled as an insult to the intelligence of the people of Antigua and Barbuda, Browne’s reference to a contractual agreement between James and Odebrecht, is cited as yet another distraction aimed at circumventing the facts and key findings revealed in this ongoing scandal.
PM Browne further claims that because James’ official appointment as Ambassador to the UAE did not occur until July 2016, there was no conflict of interest in these business transactions.
The UPP dismisses this as a deceptive argument and references an article published in the Daily Observer in September 2014, where James and two other Ambassadors received instruments of appointment, thereby giving them the international profile and autonomy to engage in some level of business or diplomatic activity.
We remain focused on the issues referenced in the official complaint, such as the details of the meeting where the fraudulent activity is alleged to have been “hatched.” The contract between James and Odebrecht are not mentioned in the complaint. We see this as just another futile attempt aimed at casting a smoke screen to distract discerning Antiguans and Barbudans from the facts surrounding this scandal. Unfortunately, it raises even more compelling questions about James’ credibility and business ethics.
The UPP remains firm in demanding that a comprehensive public investigation be immediately conducted. This is warranted given the level of mistrust and scrutiny that this scandal has generated, thereby tarnishing Antigua and Barbuda’s image in the international community.
The UPP is confident that an independent inquiry will help shed light on the following:
- The role that Franca and James played in this Miami meeting where the fraudulent activity is alleged to have occurred?
- Were travel costs and other expenses for this Miami trip covered by the government?
- While both Ambassadors, Franca and James are named in the complaint, what activities did Franca engage in, independent of James, that warranted his dismissal?
- What is the rationale for firing Franka and keeping James when James actually admitted to receiving money?
- In reference to the actual date of James accreditation as a diplomat: When was James’ diplomatic passport issued?
- Did James discontinue his affiliation with Odebrecht after he received his official appointment as Ambassador to the UAE?
In respect of the ludicrous claim that the 3M euros reviewed by James were for a CIP project, we call upon Gaston Browne to disclose:
- The details of this purported CIP project to prove it even existed.
- The reason why any investor would leave 3M euros of investment funds sitting inactive for an entire year such that James could “repay”.
The UPP also raised questions about the status of the task recently assigned to Ambassador Ron Sanders, by PM Browne to seek legal counsel in further investigating the Odebrecht scandal. The Party is requesting an update on these activities and the name of the lawyer/law firm that has been retained.
In a December 23 press release from the Office of the Prime Minister, “Prime Minister Browne made it clear that his government is determined to clarify the identities of the unnamed persons claiming to act as ‘intermediaries’ for a ‘high level official’, and to take swift and appropriate action…”
Gaston Browne owes the public an explanation as to why no action has been taken on this including his refusal to disclose the July to December 2015 travel details of himself, the UAE ambassador and others which could clarify the attendees of the Miami bribery attempt meeting referenced in US court documents.