Antigua PM prematurely revokes tourism minister's appointment after arrest

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

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ST JOHN'S, Antigua — Antigua and Barbuda's Tourism, Investment and Energy Minister Asot Michael was detained and later released by the United Kingdom Metropolitan Police yesterday, Antigua's Observer newspaper reported.

But before Michael could walk out of the detention centre in London, his prime minister, Gaston Browne, had revoked his appointment as minister.

Browne was informed of the detention in Jordan on his way from Montenegro where he led a government delegation to an international conference on citizenship by investment, the newspaper quoted a press statement from the prime minister's office.

“While I have no firm details of the reasons for Mr Michael's arrest, the arrest itself is sufficient for me to revoke immediately his appointment as a Cabinet member and to relieve him of all ministerial portfolios until this matter is resolved,” PM Browne said.

The speed with which Browne revoked the appointment of Minister Michael immediately raised eyebrows and questions as to why he (Browne) did not step away from office after accusations that he had received three million euros from Brazilian construction firm, Odebrecht, which has been alleged to bribe numerous heads of government in Latin America to cover up or facilitate money laundering activities.

Browne strenuously denied the allegations, later saying that he had been exonerated after a private arrangement with the newspaper, El Pais, which he had sued for defamation for carrying the original story quoting a former Odebrecht lawyer.

In the press statement, the prime minister advised that he received news from Antigua and Barbuda's High Commissioner in London Karen-Mae Hill that she had been informed of Michael's arrest on his arrival in England yesterday morning.

Without waiting for further details, Browne, according to the report, declared: “I have repeatedly stated that I expect every member of my Government to comply with the highest possible standards required of public office, and while Mr Michael might establish his innocence in time, the fact that he has been arrested obliges me to relieve him of all government duties.”

The Government's Chief of Staff Lionel “Max” Hurst was quoted by the Observer as saying that MP Michael was released from custody some time after 4:00 pm local time, and that the minister had been advised he may be wanted for further questioning. He is being represented by UK lawyer James Guthrie.

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