By Theresa Goodwin
Prime Minister Gaston Browne stated that two ministers of his government — and not the entire Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda — who pushed for an investigation into alleged fraudulent activities at the Board of Education (BoE).
On Friday, D Gisele Isaac, the former executive secretary of the BoE — who was at the center of the probe, walked free of the three charges brought against her after Justice Stanley John directed the jury to declare her not guilty, and after her Attorney, Dane Hamilton Sr, had successfully argued a no-case submission.
However, Isaac has other matters pending in relation to the BoE investigation.
But Browne, who addressed the matter on his radio station on Saturday, explained that a legal case was ill-advised and was a waste of the government’s resources because cases of that nature are very hard to prove.
“It is very difficult to get a conviction based on certain circumstances and I am of the view that unless there is overwhelming evidence and individuals to corroborate what happened, then it is an exercise in futility,” Browne said.
The prime minister claims that it is common knowledge that the United Progressive Party (UPP) has ‘plundered the country’; however, proving those allegations is the biggest challenge, he said.
“It is clear that they have done a lot of wrongs, but can you get someone who would have colluded with a politician to say ‘yes, I gave him a bribe’, and then to present the cheques if cheques were paid? It is very difficult to prove.
“I recall when this matter first came up in Cabinet, I took the position that the matter should be left alone because it would have been difficult to prove. Maybe I was not as forceful as I ought to be and stand my ground,” he said.
According to Browne, people who are implicated in fraud should be allowed to pay back whatever it is they are accused of stealing, instead of pursuing the matter in court.
The PM also brushed aside suggestions that the government should hire senior attorneys or Queen’s Counsels to fight the additional cases that have been filed against Issac.
Browne said he has already given instructions to the office of the Attorney General, Steadroy Benjamin, not to spend any money to fight the legal matters if they are not able to stand up in court.
He also expressed the hope that the prosecution will not be appealing the High Court ruling that was handed down in Isaac’s favour last Friday.