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Thursday, 27 January, 2022
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Editorial: Who are the interlocutors?

Another case and another guilty verdict in the ugly affair at the United Nations involving Antigua & Barbuda’s former representative and former UN General Assembly President, John Ashe. This time, the man at the top of the bribery scandal, Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng has been found guilty by a Manhattan jury. Ng apparently wanted to secure his legacy by building a United Nations center in Macau.  To do that, a court has determined that he illegally paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to U.N. ambassadors to make it happen.   Described as one of China’s richest men, he was recently convicted of bribery, conspiracy and money laundering.
This on the heels of other cases in which two other Chinese women, Yan Shiwei, also known as Sheri Yan, and Heidi Hong Piao, also known as “Heidi Park”, also pleaded guilty on various charges. In the case of Yan, the co-founder and former chief executive officer of the Global Sustainability Foundation, she was sentenced to 20 months in prison. In the preliminary statement of the government’s sentencing memorandum, her actions were described as, engaging “in repeated bribery of a senior official at the United Nations (“UN”) and Antigua and Barbuda”.  Good grief!
Reading further into that document, we get details of the bribe payments. The first, US $300,000 was apparently sent to Ashe “on behalf of a Chinese media executive (“CC-1” who was seeking to invest in Antigua and potentially to obtain Antiguan citizenship, in return for Ashe’s promoting CC-1’s interests.”  The lengthy document continues, “The defendant was well aware that the bribery funds were meant in part for Ashe, and in part for one or more Antiguan officials. As Ashe explained to the defendant, the funds are “a show of ‘good faith’ by [CC-1] re. his interest in developing a base/hub in Antigua and Barbuda AND (equally important) enable me to demonstrate to my interlocutors that he is indeed serious.
“… [The] funds will allow me to ‘start the conversations’ (my exact words when we last met) when I visit Antigua …” (PSR ¶ 27.) Ashe further explained that “[m]ost” of what he termed “the initial contribution” will “be used on this trip,” during which Ashe intended to work on “opening a direct channel to the top decision maker, the Prime Minister.” (PSR ¶¶ 28-29.)
When Ashe returned from his trip, he informed the defendant that he had met “with all the key decision makers to discuss [CC-1’s] plans,” and that Ashe had “had the initial resources in hand,” which were “fully utilized,” “certainly served the intended purpose.” (PSR ¶ 30.) Within weeks, the defendant requested an official appointment from Ashe, which she subsequently received. (PSR ¶¶ 33, 52; Ex. B.) She also suggested that Ashe provide such an appointment to another individual in return for more money.”
The document, which is available at this online link, http://fcpa.stanford.edu/fcpac/documents/4000/003350.pdf is a difficult read for any Antiguan and Barbudan. Whether you prefer blue or red kool-aid, it is difficult to read a paragraph like the one that follows and not feel like the kool-aid is backing up in your throat. 
The document states, “In claiming that her conduct was nevertheless harmless, the defendant states that the “government of Antigua and Barbuda has taken the view that the actions of Mr. Ashe were ‘in the interest and for the good of Antigua and Barbuda.’” (Def. Mem. 26 (quoting Def. Mem. Ex.3, at 2).) The government of Antigua has done no such thing. The letter from which the defendant quotes is signed by the former-Prime Minister of Antigua, Baldwin Spencer, who is alleged to have been involved in certain of Ashe’s misconduct. But even if this letter were deemed the official view of Antigua—and the defendant offers no basis for such a conclusion— the letter does not say that the defendant paying Ashe hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes was good for Antigua. It merely says, in pertinent part: “[A]ctions taken by Dr. Ashe when he was President of the United Nations General Assembly that were done in the interest and for the good of Antigua and Barbuda are also deemed acts done in his official capacity.” (Def. Mem. Ex. 3, at 2.) This sentence does not answer the question of what is “done in the interest and for the good of Antigua and Barbuda.” Bribery, plainly, is not. Indeed, bribery is illegal in Antigua.”
The problem is that there are a lot of people and even countries that shrug at that last assertion.  They say that rarely is anything every done about all of these accusations of misdeeds by Antiguan officials, so while bribery may be technically illegal in Antigua, in practice, few if any ever face the courts and suffer consequences.
Antigua & Barbuda is already taking its licks in the international press; if it is not CIP or Odebrecht, then it is something else. And it is always at the top or near the top of the criminal ladder. UN/John Ashe – “UN’s biggest financial corruption scandal since oil-for-food allegations”. AlphaBay – “the world’s largest dark web marketplace”. Stanford – “second biggest Ponzi scheme in North America”. Odebrecht – “the world’s largest bribery ring”.  If we dig into history, the list will go on and on.
How and why do we get embroiled in these things? Admittedly, Ashe died unexpectedly and was never able to defend himself against the allegations but there are others named in all of these cases that should.  Where our ministers and high officials are named, it should never be an automatic case of “defamation” and dismissal. We should show the world that we take these matters seriously and launch public inquiries that get to the bottom of the allegations. The results will exonerate the innocent or chart a path for justice for those accused of bringing the name of our nation into disrepute. Let us show the world that we are NOT a lawless third-world nation that does not care.  
If we do nothing but employ the usual strategy of “Deny! Deny! Deny!”, then we play to their narrative and prove them right.

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