Disgraced former minister Asot Michael could be seated alongside his colleagues in Cabinet and have full ministerial responsibilities whenever his name is cleared in an ongoing criminal matter in the United Kingdom.
That’s according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne who had requested the senior government minister resignation last year, shortly after Michael was re-elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for St. Peter.
Browne admitted that Michael was not only a great asset to the government and the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) but that he had also made tremendous contributions to Antigua and Barbuda.
“Unfortunately, he has a legal issue he has to dispense [with] and as soon as he is able to do so we look forward to his return to the government to make his contribution,” he said.
The prime minister said he regretted the decision but it had to be done in the interest of integrity.
“He may feel that he has been displaced but we have to run a government and integrity and I hope he understands that this has not lessened my thoughts against him,” Browne said.
In May 2018, the scandal-hit Michael resigned from his position as Minister of Tourism, Investment and Trade amidst allegations that he demanded money from British investor, Peter Virdee.
The allegations are that while Michael was the minister of energy in 2016, he demanded money, a car, and campaign financing from Virdee, who U.K. press refers hto as “Batman.”
Virdee made the allegations during phone conversations with another businessman, Dieter Trutschler, in March 2016.
The telephone calls were secretly intercepted by German law enforcement, and excerpts from the recorded surveillance surfaced in a United Kingdom High Court judgment.
Micheal denies soliciting bribes from Virdee as has been suggested in the UK court proceedings.
Late last year, Michael threatened to quit elective politics if the constituency he represents continues to be neglected.
During his contribution to the 2019 Budget Debate, the embattled MP said his constituents were not getting their fair share of the resources allocated to community development in the state, regardless of which of the two main political parties forms the government.
The prime minister’s dismissive response was: “That was total theatrics. Asot Michael isn’t going anywhere.”
At the same time, Browne sought to give the reassurance that the provision of certain services within Michael’s constituency would be expedited.