Monthly Archives: March 2016

A Former Minister of State Implicated in The John Ashe Scandal

Just Days after Former UPP Senator Anthony Stuart came forward calling for the Former Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer’s resignation due to the bad press his implication in the John Ashe Scandal has for the country, his name has been brought up again as new findings have been revealed.

According to Officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), a former minister of state attached to the office of the then prime minister has been implicated in a scheme to sell diplomatic passports to Chinese businessmen in exchange hundreds of thousands in US Currency.

The name of the former minister of state was not revealed, however, but allegations put the occurrence of the scheme in 2013 under the Former Baldwin Spencer Administration.

This arises from the recent arrest of a new figure in the scandal, Julia Vivi Wang, who transferred half a million US in bribes to Antiguan Officials to arrange for diplomatic passports on her behalf to the country’s investment office in Hong Kong, China.

It has been reported that the former Prime Minister, Now Opposition Leader Baldwin Spencer authorized the issuance of the passports in question, but sought to clear his name by stating he had no knowledge that money was exchanged to attain them.

Officials from the Present Gaston Browne Administration have maintained distance from the scandal, but have been co-operating with US Officials.

The Chief of Staff Lionel Hurst indicated that the diplomatic passports in question have since been revoked.

This, he said, was done after US Officials ordered an audit of all diplomatic passports at the break of the John Ashe Scandal.

Three individuals namely Chinese business women; Sheri Yan and Heidi Hong Piao, and Former Ambassador to the Dominican Republic; Francis Lorenzo,  have so far pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges in the UN Scandal.

 

You Can View Entire Court Document By Clicking the Link: John Ashe Court File

 

 

The Broadcasting Minister Commits to Resolving Issues with ABS Workers

The Antigua Trades & Labour Union has made significant inroads on behalf of workers at the Antigua Broadcasting Service (ABS).

Speaking to ZDK News, Union Representative Ralph Potter indicated that during a meeting held on Monday with the Broadcasting Minister Melford Nicholas, a firm commitment was made to address the health and safety concerns of the staff.

According to him, a time frame will be set by the ministry for the resolution of the issues discussed in the meeting.

However, despite the significant progress, Potter disclosed that the pressing issue on the minds of staff, that being the removal of the General Manager, was not specifically tabled in the meeting and must be discussed going forward.

In the Meeting, Minister Melford Nicholas disclosed that the General Manager has been acting on directives of himself and the Cabinet, and made no further comment on her removal.

The Union representative indicated that they anticipate a follow up meeting with the Minister; however an official date is not set in stone.

 

 

 

 

Antigua & Barbuda Receives Further Increase in Cruise calls Following Major Cruise Conference

Antigua and Barbuda has seen an increase in Cruise calls for the 2016/2017 cruise-tourism season following a major cruise conference in Florida.

Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Officials represented the country exceedingly well providing updates to industry partners on the detail plans to expand the St. John’s Port facilities which left the destination booth “vibrant and full of activity,” a release said.

The opportunity was made possible at Sea-trade Cruise Global, the cruise industry’s largest annual conference being held for the first time at the Broward Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale Florida.

The Antigua and Barbuda Team used the opportunity to share with the Cruise Executives the Government’s new energy initiative, which will offer the cruise lines an opportunity to refuel their ships in Antigua and Barbuda.

Other service options being considered include the expansion of the destination’s ability to provide potable water from our desalination facility to more of the smaller cruise ships.

The news saw several cruise lines showing renewed interest in using the destination as a homeport which will be realized after the planned improvements to the landside facilities that will include a passenger terminal.

One of the major success coming out of the event was the achievement of a major increase to the destination with a total of 14 new ship calls from Pullmantur each bringing 1,800 passengers for the upcoming season. This is up from a single call made last season.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (RCCL), one of the country’s major cruise line partners also announced a total of 82 Ship calls for the upcoming season. This is expected to increase passenger numbers by over 10,000 up from 206,078 in season 2015/16 to 216,036 for 2016/17.

However, cruise-line officials called for the local transportation sector to evolve in order to give their customers choices.

Chairman of the St Johns Development Corporation (STDC) Rohan Hector, along with Executive Director Neil Butler, CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority Colin James, Arah Robins of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority’s office in New York, and President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Association Nathan Dundas led the negotiations for increased cruise ship calls for the upcoming season.

Officials from the Antigua and Barbuda Port Authority Senator Mary-Claire Hurst and Darwin Telemaque were also on hand to meet with their shipping industry partners to share plans concerning all matters related to the planned improvement to the commercial port of St John’s.

 

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves to Deliver Memorial Lecture

Vincentian Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves is currently on island with hopes delivering the 12th Dr Alister Francis Memorial Lecture hosted by the Antigua State College.

The Vincentian Prime Minister joins a long list of prestigious guest lecturers including University of the West Indies Vice Chancellor Sir Hillary Beckles, OECS Director General Dr Didacus Jules and Governor General of St Lucia Dame Pearlette Louisy.

Prime Minister Gonsalves while speaking on ZDK’s Expression said that the lecture is geared towards education and the role it has played in the socio-economic development of our region.

The Vincentian Prime Minister said although he did not know Dr Alister Francis personally he is pleased to be making this lecture on behalf of the distinguished education.

The memorial lecture will be carried live on ABS Radio (90.5 FM) and, for the first time will include an interactive component via social media.

Audience members and those listening on radio will be able to send questions via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.

The event is scheduled for 7:30 pm this evening at the University of the West Indies Open Campus on Factory Road.

Preparations underway for Carnival 2016

As Antigua and Barbuda gets set to celebrate its 60th anniversary of Carnival 2016, preparations are underway for Calypsonians and Soca artists.

That is according to a representative from the Festivals Commission Gilbert Laudat while speaking during an interview.

He disclosed that a workshop will be held for both calypso and soca artists geared towards assisting them to develop basic skills.

The ongoing workshop is being facilitated by Paul Obstinate Richards and Mr. Rupert Pyle.

It will run for 12 weeks and will be held on Saturdays starting at 9am.

Only 1 case of mother to child HIV transmission has been reported

AIDS Program Manager Delcora Williams has reported only 1 case of mother to child HIV transmission over the past five years

With the required rate of 2 percent for HIV infections within OECS countries Williams said that Antigua and Barbuda is well within the range with only one case of mother to child transmission since 2012.

The program manager while speaking during an interview said that with the support received by the government, the main aim of the secretariat is to ensure the elimination of HIV transmission especially mother to child.

She continued giving details on how the secretariat plans to ensure elimination and offer more testing for individuals.

 

 

 

 

UPP & True Labour Join Heads to hold Government Accountable

On Saturday March 18th, officials of the United Progressive Party and the Antigua & Barbuda True Labour Party met to discuss a common approach in addressing a number of issues facing the Gaston Browne administration.

According to a joint press release issued by both parties following the meeting the Gaston Browne-led ABLP Administration is guilty of bad governance and self-inflicted economic hardship, which prompted both parties to join heads.

Senator Damarni Tabor, Public Relations Officer for the UPP told ZDK news that it is time for the government to be held more accountable for failing citizens.

The two parties agree that the government has failed in a number of key areas including the 35% rise in unemployment according to release. Senator Tabor said that once individuals and other activist groups share similar thoughts, they are welcomed to join the cause.

The press release also detailed proposals made by both parties. One of which is that election day be made a public holiday to allow timely and unimpeded participation of all eligible voters and another, changing the law of the Prime Minister selecting the day of elections to a fixed day at the end of the 5 year term.

The parties further proposed that term limits should be set for elected Prime Ministers at a maximum of two consecutive terms.

Meantime, the PRO noted that the United Progressive Party has not forgotten the government’s failure to recognize an ultimatum issued demanding that the price for fuel variation and gas at the pump be lowered.

He said the party has more robust protest planned for the future.

Anthony Astaphan SC calls for Condemnation on CCJ Troublemakers

As the public education and sensitization campaign on the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) continues, there has been a call for persons who intentionally create misconception on the court to be condemned.

Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan said that those persons who spread misinformation to allude to the presence of political information during the campaign should be confronted in order to protect individuals who genuinely seek understanding.

He was at the time speaking on ZDK’s Sunday Programme Open Forum.

A three-month public education campaign was launched in early March as the government prepares to hold a referendum to determine whether to replace the London based Privy Council as its apex court with the Trinidad based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

The senior counsel advised residents to routinely follow discussions on the education campaign in order to prevent being misled. He also recommended that persons adhere and respect the advice of Dr. David Simmons, a man considered to be one of the architects of the CCJ and Dr. Francis Alexis, a constitutional expert, as both men are experts in the said field.

Astaphan continued by posing a question to residents who may not have confidence in the CCJ and in the ability of Caribbean heads to make what he termed as a positive step to adopt the CCJ as the finale appellate court. 

He further reminded relevant authorities including the government and the opposition, of their obligation to educate the public on such an important step.

The initial date for the referendum was scheduled sometime in June but following recommendations made by Dr. Francis Alexis that essential elements must be changed; Cabinet indicated that the referendum is likely to be conducted close to Independence.

US make Another Arrest in UN Bribery Scandal

US Prosecutors have made another arrest has been made in the John Ashe Bribery Scandal.

Chinese-born executive Julia Vivi Wang was charged on Friday with paying at least $500,000 in bribes to buy diplomatic positions with the government of Antigua for her husband and another man.

The bribe was “solicited and facilitated” by John W. Ashe, who served as General Assembly president for one year starting in September 2013, and Francis Lorenzo, a deputy permanent representative to the United Nations for the Dominican Republic, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in Federal District Court in Manhattan on Friday.

According to a New York Times report, Wang, who is a 55 year old naturalized United States citizen from China, came two days after Lorenzo, who was suspended from his post, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery and other counts, and agreed to cooperate with the investigation, according to his plea agreement.

The complaint describes Ms. Wang as having served as vice president of an organization in New York, which she founded with her husband, which promotes sustainable development and the United Nation’s development goals.

Ms. Wang and her husband, who is not named in the complaint, told Mr. Lorenzo that they wanted to obtain an official post, like consul or envoy, because “they viewed such a position as a business opportunity.”

According to a complaint, signed by Jason P. Alberts, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the couple was willing to pay for such positions which led to them paying Lorenzo hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for his help.

 

The report also noted that Former Antiguan Ambassador John Ashe was told about the proposal in which he advised Lorenzo hat in exchange for granting the diplomatic posts, at least some of the money would be used to pay off one or more Antiguan officials, including the then prime minister of Antigua.

The claim also detail that Ashe agreed via email in March 2013, that Antigua was going to open an “investment office” in Hong Kong and that he would be appointed economic envoy/honorary consul.

Wang, who was charged with conspiracy and money laundering, was released on a $1.5 million bail, and must remain at her New York residence as a part of her bail arrangements.

Burnt Teen flown out to Martinique

Shaveesa Gasper, the 15 yr old teenager who was allegedly set on fire by her mother on New Year’s Day, has been flown out of the country via helicopter to receive critical medical treatment.

According to Public Relations Officer within the Ministry of Health, Jermaine Kentish, the teen is being flown to Martinique to receive further medical care.

Three ministries under the Gaston Browne administration have taken swift action to offer assistance to the teenager who sustained burns to over 60 percent of her body.

According to a Government release, Prime Minister the Hon. Gaston Browne, upon hearing of the incident, immediately instructed his Ministers of Health and Social Transformation to utilize the government’s resources to ensure that the teenager receives the best possible care and that her sibling be placed in the most appropriate care available.

Social Transformation Minister and Minister responsible for Youth, the Hon. Samantha Marshall told ZDK news that her ministry was instructed to ensure that the welfare of the victim and her sibling are addressed in the best possible manner.

Minister Marshall further acknowledged that her ministry must also investigate what could have led to such a tragic incident.

Meantime Culture Minister Paul Chet Greene said after hearing of the incident, he was shocked and further pointed out that he will be working closely with his colleagues to ensure that the teen, who has shown interest in cultural circles in Antigua and Barbuda, is given the best possible care.