After more than a month and a half offering no statements on the Freeland auction scandal the prime minister, Gastgon Browne, has said the matter is “settled.”
He used the word in response to an email from an OBSERVER reporter who asked him several questions on December 18, 2017. Browne, ignored the questions and replied to the email saying, “Senator Freeland is better equipped to answer most of these.”
However, it was explicitly stated in the email sent to the prime minister that Michael Freeland, Senator and auctioneer at the centre of the scandal, has refused to speak about it and has ignored attempts to contact him as recently as Saturday, December 16, 2017.
The scandal surrounds Freeland’s unexplained failure to surrender $119,866.50 of state auction proceeds to the Customs and Excise Division after an auction, the exact date of which the prime minister failed to reveal in his response although he was asked.
Raju Boddu, Comptroller of Customs told the newsroom some weeks ago, that Freeland was repaying the sum in instalments. Today, in his email, the prime minister said “I have been advised by the comptroller that the funds have been repaid in full. There has been full restitution…”
Browne gave no indication whatsoever that any disciplinary action would be taken against the senator and auctioneer even though this a direct question put to him in the email from our reporter.
Among other things, Browne was asked when the auction happened; whether he, Browne, had spoken to Freeland about the issue; and what explanation had Freeland given, if any, for not surrendering the funds.
The prime minister was also asked whether Freeland’s failure to surrender the state funds was reported to the police or referred to legal counsel for advice on how his actions should be treated and whether there had been any effort to determine whether Freeland broke any laws by his actions.
The prime minister did not respond. Yesterday, Dr David Hinds, political analyst and commentator on Caribbean current affairs said that the prime minister’s handling of the scandal has been “an embarrassment.” Dr Hinds charged Browne with a running “cake shop” government of “mediocrity.”