Asot Michael to be investigated by Integrity Commission, St. Kitts-Nevis PM Timothy Harris refuses to quit office
Photo Caption – Asot Michael
Basseterre, St. Kitts, June 16, 2018 – While Antigua and Barbuda’s 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, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister, who is also named in the scandal is refusing to quit his post.
In a statement, the Integrity Commission said the investigation would fall under the Integrity in Public Life Act and the Prevention of Corruption Act, both enacted in 2004.
Asot Michael’s departure from the Cabinet in May was the second occasion within a seven-month period 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 (ABLP).
Michael, who was born in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, has denied the accusation 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.
The Integrity Commission has 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.
Two London High Court judges, Lord Justice Holroyde and Mr. Justice Dingemens in dismissing the applications of Virdee and Trutschler noted in the May 11, 2018 judgement that “without going into particulars, and putting the matter at its very lowest, we have no doubt that a judge considering the passages we have quoted would regard them as capable of giving rise to a reasonable inference that the claimants were willing in principle to make and to pay bribes, but felt that the Caribbean politicians were asking for too much.”
There have been demonstrations and mounting calls for the resignation of Prime Minister Harris, but he has publicly stated he is not going anywhere.
Caribbean author and historian, Dr. Adrian Fraser has called the scandal “a disgraceful and sickening behaviour” on the part of the named Caribbean politicians.