As the government investigates bribery allegations of certain officials, two persons have been identified as a part of the governments probe into what is being described as the largest bribery scandal in history.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne while speaking during the Governments year end press conference on Wednesday morning, revealed that Honorary Counsel to Brazil Luis Franka has been fired and warned that if Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Casroy James cannot clear his name, if involved in the scandal, then he too will be fired.
“We cannot escape the fact that certain allegations were made that funds were paid to an individual and that is a matter of some concern for my government; in fact, I have taken the decision to relieve Mr. Luis Franka of his position of Honorary Counsel immediately and I have actually taken a position that if Ambassador Casroy James is unable to provide a satisfactory explanation as to why, if any money has been to him, that he too will be relieved of his position,” the Prime Minister said.
Last week, the New York Times broke the story that Odebrecht pleaded guilty in the US District Court in the Eastern District of New York to violating anti-bribery provisions of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by conducting bribes in the US.
According to official court files, one of the acts to which Odebrecht pleaded guilty was an alleged bribery of a consular official from Antigua and an intermediary to a high-level government official in Antigua arranged during a meeting in Miami, Florida, in or about mid 2015.
When news of the probe was received from Brazil, the government noted that the Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) and the Financial Services Regulatory Commission (FSRC) immediately responded by freezing the accounts of a Brazilian-owned offshore bank that has been in operation since 2006”.
According to PM Browne, this was done in a swift attempt to “put the corrupt individuals in jail.
Meantime the ONDCP has issued a media statement dismissing claims of being involved in the public scandal.
According to the Director of ONDCP, Lt Col Edward Croft, “neither he nor any member of the command of his organization received any instructions from any official with regard to documents requested by Brazilian investigative authorities regarding the activities of Odebrecht and a bank in Antigua.”
The ONDCP Director’s statement follows an allegation that a high-level government official had been requested by an ‘intermediary’ to refrain from providing to international authorities various banking documents that would reveal illicit payments made by the Division of Structured Operations on behalf of Odebrecht.
Lt. Col Edward Croft stated categorically, “I have not received any instructions from any private or public official whether domestically or internationally or from anyone advising that I not provide the necessary requested banking documents to the Brazilian authorities”.
ONDCP noted that it has operated in this matter entirely in conformity with its status as an independent investigative body under the law, and fully in keeping with its domestic and international responsibilities.
He explained that ONDCP has both domestic and international responsibilities, regarding matters of money laundering and drug trafficking, that it takes very seriously. “In the execution of these responsibilities, ONDCP acts independently under the law and in keeping with its international obligations to the Financial Action Task Force and relevant international conventions”.