DPP tasked with Ashe scandal follow up

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The Antigua & Barbuda Government said Friday that the state will conduct its own investigation into the John Ashe scandals.
During the government’s weekly press briefing, Information Minister Melford Nicholas, divulged,  “the Government has seen it fit and proper to facilitate ongoing fact-finding investigations to ensure that the facts, as are presented or as they have been uncovered, will be presented to the public, and where there are matters that would require further legal action, these matters would be referred to the relevant authorities.”
Nicholas further revealed that the Government is in possession of diplomatic notes from the United States government which indicate “that there have been clear breaches of Antiguan law dealing with money laundering and racketeering.”
Since the Cabinet cannot “in and of itself initiate any prosecutorial action against anyone,” the minister continued,  “it has authorized the Attorney General, Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin, to pass the U.S. Court documents on to the state’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Anthony Armstrong, to assess and determine if further action is necessary.
John Ashe, a former president of the United Nations General Assembly, died in June 2016, amidst an ongoing bribery investigation.
The Antigua & Barbuda diplomat was accused of selling diplomatic passports and accepting bribe monies during the 2013 to 2014 period when he served as President of the UN General Assembly.
Two government officials here were also said to have allegedly received monies during these exchanges.
And while the Information Minister said that the Government had previously refused to waive the diplomatic protection of John Ashe and other government officials allegedly involved, “it does not obviate from the fact, based on what has been uncovered in the United States court, that it pointed to clear issues of wrongdoing.”
He said, “As part of the communique that exists between the state and our neighbour to the North, I think it behooves us to do the right and proper thing to ensure that we too undertake the necessary investigations internally.”
The Cabinet has also made a decision for the Prime Minister to report to the Parliament, at least twice per year, the names of persons who have been issued diplomatic passports.
The Government summed it up as ensuring “transparency in the appointment of diplomats – especially those who are not citizens of Antigua & Barbuda.”
The decision is also intended to convey to the country’s many sovereign friends that Antigua & Barbuda’s diplomatic passports are not for sale.

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