Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s efforts to dispel suggestions of his interference in the Customs investigation in which his signature was allegedly forged have been derided by one of his staunchest critics.
A few months ago, Browne revealed that his signature had been forged on Customs documents while investigations into wider fraud at the division were ongoing.
Comptroller of Customs Raju Boddu this week denied that the Prime Minister had instructed him not to pursue the investigation – and this denial was also supported by Foreign Affairs Minister, EP Chet Greene.
However, Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Harold Lovell, does not believe that admission carries much weight, citing a clear conflict of interest.
“This is very strange and here it is we recognise Mr Boddu’s work under a contract and the person most responsible in deciding whether the contract is renewed or not, if Mr Boddu seeks renewal it is the prime minister who is the minister of finance.
“That is wholly improper … that you are going to call a senior public officer and subject them to that. What did he expect Mr Boddu to say? Would Mr Boddu say, ‘yes sir, you told me not to send the matter to the police’. So to me that has very little evidentiary weight. The only weight you can attach to a public servant who is asked a question in the presence of a journalist, ‘Did I instruct you?’ The natural answer is going to be no,” Lovell explained.
Lovell went further, saying the act of forgery should have been reported to the police at the first instance. The failure to do so, he claimed, could imply a cover-up.
He said Browne should have reported the matter directly to the police, notwithstanding that the forgery allegedly took place on a Customs form.