Government debunks claims made by Canadian blogger

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By Robert A. Emmanuel

The Government of Antigua and Barbuda, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has categorically denied allegations about the government and local banks that have been made by a Canadian blogger, and which have been circulating on social media.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns the false allegations, made by convicted criminal, Monte Friesner, in a recording being circulated through social media, regarding involvement of Antigua and Barbuda banks and government officials, including Prime Minister Gaston Browne,” it said in a press statement released on Monday.

It added that Friesner — in a recording sent to the United Progressive Party-affiliated radio station, Crusader Radio — “falsely claims that Antigua and Barbuda officials and banks are implicated in the recent arrest and indictment of Alex Saab Moran in the United States.”

Saab Moran was a controversial Colombian businessperson who, until April 2019, held an Antigua and Barbuda diplomatic passport.

On 26th July 2019, a social media post published by George Wehner and Crusader Radio referenced the online article published by Wanted SA, the controversial blog operated by Kenneth Rijock and Friesner.

According to Wanted SA, Saab Moranwas indictedThursday in Miami, “hours after the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned him for corruptly helping the Maduro regime and others”earn millions of dollars from a food distribution network intended to serve starving people.

The post continued to say that the charges were relatednot to the food network, but bribes that Saab Moran and anotherbusiness affiliateallegedly paid to Venezuelan officials to build low income housing units.

Another assertion by Wanted SA, wasthat the bribe money also moved through a private bank in Antigua and Barbuda.

“Saab allegedly laundered dirty money through a private bank in Antigua that he owned, and also through a local indigenous Antiguan bank known to be facilitating drug money laundering,” according to the post by Wehner.

Freisneralso claimedthat future actions by US authorities will include the indictment of two persons who own banks on theisland.

However, the Gaston Browne administration sought to refute the claims, stating, “Friesner’s claim, which appeared in a blog written by another convicted money launderer, Ken Rijock, is shown to be completely false in the publicly available US indictment of Alex Saab Moran on charges of alleged money laundering. 

“The indictment in the US District Court, Southern District of Florida dated 25th July 2019, makes it clear that the seven transactions, for which Mr. Moran is charged, took place between an account in Panama and Citibank in Florida.  

“Nowhere in the indictment is Antigua and Barbuda or any of its Government officials or banks mentioned. Friesner and Rijock have made the patently false allegations about Antigua and Barbuda in a continuing smear campaign to support their scandal blogs from which they make money.”

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