Can Cabinet instruct ONDCP? – ‘No’ says attorney

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An attorney has characterised as legally weightless and “farfetched” the apparent directive of Cabinet to a law enforcement agency to report to it on the MeinlBank scandal with the help of a Cabinet-nominated lawyer.
Lawrence Daniels’ comment comes days after the Cabinet’s announcement that attorney Anthony Astaphan would “assist” the Office of National Drug & Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) probe and report on the Odebrecht-Meinl Bank scandal.
“The Prime Minister certainly can set out his policy within a certain sphere but it is within the expertise of the ONDCP to know who are the experts to provide certain assistance and investigate certain matters,” Daniel said. “I do not think the Prime Minister can give ONDCP direct instructions. He can set out what the mandate is in terms of policy but to give instructions is farfetched,” he added.
Speaking on the Big Issues programme on Sunday, the lawyer said that in his opinion the prime minister may go as far as to ask the Director of the ONDCP to attend the Cabinet “for a briefing and set out policy and what his government is looking for.”
The Cabinet has determined that the ONDCP, with the help of Astaphan, should report on whether there needs to be a public inquiry into the OdebrechtMeinl Bank scandal.
Astaphan has represented and may still be representing Prime Minister Gaston Browne and other Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) officials.
While Daniel would not say whether he believes this to be a conflict of interest for Astaphan, he has asked whether the ONDCP “has ever carried out a proper investigation into the matter” and argued that, “it does not appear so from all indications.”
The scandal has been in the news locally since December of 2016 but no law enforcement agency has yet spoken publicly of culpability or prosecution locally for those who may be involved.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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