Antiguan Integrity Commission to probe bribery allegations against former minister
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, CMC – The Antiguan Integrity Commission says there are grounds to begin an investigation into the activities of former investment and trade minister Asot Michael who stepped down last month amid speculation that he was among Caribbean politicians who had received bribes from a British investor.
Michael’s departure from the Cabinet in May was the second time within seven months that he has had to forgo his ministerial position.
Last October, he was arrested in London while on his way to a conference in France.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne subsequently removed him as the Minister of Tourism, Economic Development, Investment and Energy, but the 49-year-old rebounded to successfully contest the March 21 general election on behalf of the ruling Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party.
Michael, who was born in Guadeloupe, has denied the accusations that unfolded in a British High Court in May in a matter involving British financier Peter Virdee, whose telephone conversations with his business partner, Dieter Trutschler in 2016, had been recorded by German authorities.
According to the transcript of the document revealed in the High Court, Virdee alleges that Michael had asked him for two million dollars as well as to buy a car for his mother.
But, in his resignation letter to Prime Minister Browne, Michael said he had become “aware that recent media reports, emerging from Court proceedings in the United Kingdom, to which I am not a party, have caused anxiety in some quarters of our society and are being used by opposition political elements to seek to discredit me and the Government”.
The Integrity Commission acknowledged that it does not have the staff or the resources to mount the investigation into Michael, noting that it has only one staff member who serves as the secretary to both the body and the Information Commissioner’s offices.
But, the Integrity Commission chairman Radford Hill said that the commission intends to investigate the matter and make a formal request to the government for additional resources, adding that the police would be asked to conduct investigations, if necessary.