Tue | Aug 14, 2018

Kitts-Nevis gov't denies allegations of bribes from a British investor

Published:Monday | May 14, 2018 | 9:43 AM
Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris (left) and Opposition Leader Dr. Denzil Douglas - CMC photo

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, May 14, CMC – The St. Kitts-Nevis government has distanced itself from allegations that it was among Caribbean countries that received bribes from a British investor as Opposition Leader Dr. Denzil Douglas called for the “ immediate resignation” of the Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris.

In a statement, the government said that “given the seriousness of the innuendo… Dr. Timothy Harris states emphatically and unequivocally that since Team Unity was elected, the integrity of the Office of the Prime Minister has at all times been maintained to the highest standards to which the citizens and residents of the Federation are entitled to and must hold their Government”.

The statement said that the Office of the Prime Minister “has been made aware” of the media reports on the recent judgement of the English High Court, which concerns allegations that the British investors had engaged in bribery involving Caribbean officials.

But the statement claimed that the judgement references a period of time beginning in 2014 and that Prime Minister Harris “cannot speak to what may have occurred prior to his assumption of office of the Prime Minister on February 18th, 2015”.

It said that Prime Minister Harris “has consulted with senior legal counsel in an effort to determine the next steps”.

But in a radio and television broadcast on Sunday night, Dr. Douglas called for the immediate resignation of Prime Minister Harris, saying the twin-island Federation under the present administration “has continued to attract one international scandal after another.

“This time the scandal appears to concern the Prime Minister directly. As a small Caribbean nation, we are fast losing our reputation, and the lifeblood of this country is being sucked from it as corruption runs amok and there seems to be a return of the image of Devil’s Island,” said Dr. Douglas, who served as Prime Minister from 1995 to 2015 .

He said the transcripts produced in the High Court in London in connection with a bribery investigation against the billionaire businessman and his business partner appear to disclose reasonable grounds to believe that bribes and expensive gifts were given to the government.

The transcripts appeared subject to a court hearing and were produced from surveillance recordings made by German police after they suspected the British investor of being involved in tax fraud.

The tapes were handed over to the National Crime Agency in the United Kingdom, which began its own criminal investigation into the allegations of bribery of Caribbean politicians.

The transcripts produced in the court were of intercepted phone calls between the two businessmen made in February, March, July, August and November last year.

“These conversations began about exactly 12 months after Harris became Prime Minister of our country, St. Kitts and Nevis,” said Dr. Douglas, quoting Lord Justice Holroyde of the High Court in London , who last Friday noted “there is no doubt that the transcripts include a number of references to the topic of payments or gifts to government officials”.

“Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris must therefore immediately resign and give a full accounting of what transpired between him and the billionaire business tycoon,” said Dr. Douglas, outlining a number of questions he said Prime Minister Harris must answer in the public domain.

“We the People must demand that Harris answer each of these questions publicly,” said Dr. Douglas, repeating the call for Prime Minister Harris to step down.

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