PM says integrity commission should target opposition if it wants to investigate labour party MP

Prime Minister Gaston Browne (File photo)

“It would be a travesty” to investigate scandal-hit labour party MP Asot Michael and not look into members of the opposition United Progressive Party (UPP), according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne.

The country’s leader added that the Radford Hill led Integrity Commission, which recently announced intention to investigate Michael’s actions, needs to “broaden its net”.

The Commission, in a press statement last Friday, said it would be asking the government or police for the resources to do the probe since it is not adequately staffed/ equipped to move forward.

Michael resigned from his post as Minister of Trade and Investment in May, after secretly taped conversations of him, fraud suspect – U.K. property tycoon Peter – and Virdee’s colleague Dieter Trushcler were released in court documents in the United Kingdom.

In the audio, it is alleged that some time in 2016, Michael, who was then minister of energy and tourism, solicited kickbacks from Virdee while promising contracts in the Caribbean.

The exposure of the conversations last month occurred months after Michael was arrested in the U.K. and questioned about the matter. Following his arrest last October, Michael was immediately fired from his then post as Minister of Energy and Tourism; only to be welcomed back into the Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) fold to run for office this year.

Speaking about the matter on his radio station Saturday, the prime minister said, “I understand that the [Commission] said they may not have the resources, but where the request is made for additional resources, we have an obligation to supply the additional resources.”

He added, “The integrity commission is an independent body…we would allow the system to work without any intervention.”

Referring to the Chairman of the Commission as “Comrade Raddy”, Browne, said, the body needs to also launch a probe into members of the UPP who have been identified as receiving money in the Ambassador John Ashe scandal.

He said, “I am not here to defend the innocence or guilt of comrade Michael … I don’t want it to appear as though there is any form of intervention here from the prime minister but fair is fair. Forget about all the other issues … the bribery issue involving John Ashe is the biggest scandal to ever hit this country and I want to say here that it would be a travesty for there to be any investigation into Asot Michael without investigating Baldwin Spencer as well as Mansoor and others in the UPP.”

Michael, who remains MP for St. Peter, has denied the allegations of soliciting bribes and said he has nothing to hide.

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