Prime Minister Gaston Browne (OBSERVER media photo)

Prime Minister Gaston Browne has come out in defense of Ambassador Casroy James arguing that additional information that James provided indicates that his relationship with persons allegedly linked to Odebrecht was legitimate.

In December 2016 a scheme by an Odebrecht employee to pay an Antiguan official a €3 million bribe to secure a deal to withhold banking information was alleged in United States (US) court documents.

James has admitted to no more than a business relationship with “an affiliate of Meinl Bank” and to having accepted an unspecified sum of money as part of a Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) related business agreement.

Yesterday, Browne told OBSERVER media, “The information that he provided to me…it is less than €3 million and he actually presented a contract to confirm that he had a legitimate deal with them.”

Browne has also stated emphatically that “there was no conflict of interest” when James, currently ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was contracted by an affiliate of Meinl Bank.

“When he actually entered that deal with the individuals he was not an ambassador. He only got his [accreditation] from the UAE in July of [2016] so it would have meant that he acted in his personal capacity at the time,” the prime minister said.

In his public statement published on December 29 2016, James also stated that “in July 2016 [he] was officially appointed”.

Browne added, “Up to this time Ambassador Casroy James has not been paid a cent from the government of Antigua & Barbuda and there is no way we could have asked him to give up his CIP business, because he had to survive.”

(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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