Can we stick to the matters at hand?

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If you want a perfect example of how our politicians veer off of the main road and into the weeds, then you need look no further than the recent interaction between Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Senator Harold Lovell during their appearance on Saturday’s Snakepit programme, live from Barbuda.
In a rare interview session, featuring both men face-to-face, (a format which we loved, by the way) important issues quickly took a back seat to finger pointing.
When asked to address the matter of the Brazilian Odebrecht scandal and the call for an independent inquiry, both men decided that the best political tactic was to continue with efforts to implicate each other in the scandal and a fight began over who was where when.
This all relates to the allegations made in a United States District Court document presented in the Eastern District of New York in the case of “United States of America against Odebrecht S.A.”  In that document was this paragraph: “Furthermore, in or about mid-2015, Odebrecht Employee 4 attended a meeting in Miami, Florida, with a consular official from Antigua and an intermediary to a high-level government official in Antigua.”
It continued, “In order to conceal ODEBRECHT’s corrupt activities, Odebrecht Employee 4 requested that the high-level official 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, and agreed to pay $4 million to the high-level official to refrain from sending the documents. Odebrecht Employee 3 made three payments of 1 million Euros on behalf of ODEBRECHT in order to secure the deal. The contemplated fourth payment was never made.”
That was it.  There have been other reports and testimony as to who the intended recipient was, etc but that is for another time and maybe an independent public inquiry.  For now, let’s just examine the key bit of ‘finger pointing’ in the statement above.  The allegation states that the Miami meeting was “with a consular official from Antigua and an intermediary to a high-level government official”.  Neither the PM nor Senator Lovell fits either of those descriptions.  We are therefore baffled as to why both of these very senior politicians have decided to paint each other with that brush.
We have heard about who was on a family vacation to Disney in Orlando and we have heard about who had a December meeting but that is all immaterial.  The pertinent questions are:  Who was the “consular official from Antigua”? Who was the “intermediary”?  And, who was the “high-level government official”?
Only the consular official and the intermediary were reported to be in Miami in mid-2015.  So why are PM Browne and Senator Lovell attempting to prove that the other was in Miami at that meeting or at any time close to that meeting?  The conspiracy theorists believe that this is all a giant game of deflection and deception.  They believe that as long as the public is caught up in a game of ‘support your politician’, the real investigation will never begin.
And while the politicians attempt to prove the impossible so as to defend their reputations, the country’s reputation takes a massive hit.  No one seems to care that these serious allegations form part of what the United States Department of Justice describes as the “Largest Foreign Bribery Case in History”.  A case in which Odebrecht and Braskem (a Brazilian petrochemical company), pleaded guilty to a host of bribery charges and agreed to pay a combined total penalty of at least US $3.5 billion to resolve charges with authorities in the United States, Brazil and Switzerland.
The link to Antigua & Barbuda has been firmly established through the operations of Meinl Bank and others.  And now two Odebrecht employees have implicated a “consular official”, an “intermediary” and a “high-level government official”.  The PM has said that he will not initiate a public inquiry based solely on an allegation that is not corroborated, but it has been corroborated.   If you read the paragraph above carefully, you would see that Odebrecht Employee 4 attended the meeting in Miami, Florida, and Odebrecht Employee 3 made three payments of 1 million Euros on behalf of ODEBRECHT in order to secure the deal.
Corroboration is “evidence which confirms or supports a statement, theory, or finding”.  By that mere definition, there has been corroboration and this has moved beyond mere allegations.  In today’s world of law enforcement co-operation and money transfer audit trails, it seems that we should be able to quickly determine the true facts of this case.  And, before we get bogged down debating whether our authorities provided full co-operation, it is worth noting that just because someone may have taken a bribe but did not do what was agreed, does not make taking the bribe okay.
We have already been branded as being one of the centres that facilitated the “Largest Foreign Bribery Case in History” so can we please do something that will not add the label of aiding to covering up the “Largest Foreign Bribery Case in History”? Our reputation has taken too many hits over the years and we are at a point where we cannot ignore corroborated allegations.

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