Gaston Browne says Share Inc is suspended

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne has announced the suspension of his wife Maria Bird-Browne’s charity Share Incorporated, and claims the action was taken due to political “nastiness” and “ridicule” that was coming from the opposition.

Speaking in Parliament this week, Browne said, “We’ve taken the decision to suspend the operations of Share in order to avert the nastiness that is taking place, and it’s unfortunate because Share has assisted so many individuals.”

Browne said the entity would not be dissolved completely as it had assets remaining such as “a piece of real estate down in Point” which was once an information technology (IT) centre. He also said that Share holds an account at the Antigua & Barbuda Development Bank (ABDB) with a deposit of around $100,000.

He added that there were also accounts at Antigua Commercial Bank (ACB) and at Caribbean Union Bank (CUB), which between them held around $100,000. The prime minister said this money would be “given to the VC Bird Trust to proceed with the establishment of the museum at Tomlinson’s”.

He said the funds at the ABDB were put there in order to secure a loan for patrons of the charity.

“The last three contributions from the charity involve about $200,000 given to a group doing a media facility and another $100,000 was given to a group of females for business,” Browne added.

The prime minister admitted that his wife had ceased to be a director of Share some time ago, as according to him, “the issue of her operating a charity has created some level of consternation for members on the other side”.

He declared, “My wife is beautiful young lady and I don’t want individuals to be spreading propaganda about her and trying to ridicule her in public when she has not done anything wrong.”

In the 2016 Budget presentation, Browne announced that a government owned venture capital fund would be created at the ABDB, and that his wife, through Share Incorporated, would partner with the government to play a role in financing the initiative.

The plan was highly controversial and attracted criticism from the public, as well as from the opposition. The ABDB venture capital fund received an injection of $5 million from the government.

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