By Carlena Knight
The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament has given his stamp of approval to the government’s decision to request assistance from international law enforcement agencies to solve the kidnapping and murder of Customs officer, Nigel Christian.
Christian, a high-ranking Customs inspector, was forcibly taken from his McKinnons home last Friday, and his body was discovered near New Winthorpes shortly after with several bullet wounds.
On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister Paul Chet Greene told Observer that letters had already been dispatched to the local UK Resident Commissioner to request the services of London’s Scotland Yard, and a similar request had been made of the US’ FBI agents in Barbados.
At a press briefing on Thursday, it was further revealed that the FBI had already been in touch offering help, but it is not clear what role they will play in the investigation.
However, although MP Jamale Pringle said he supported the move, he has laid some blame on the Gaston Browne-led administration for failing to mount an inquiry after another Customs officer, Cornell Benjamin, was shot and wounded last October.
Benjamin was shot in both legs outside his Cassada Gardens home after his dogs alerted him of men hiding in the bushes. The shooting occurred just three days after PM Browne alleged that unnamed Customs brokers had committed a $3 million tax fraud at the port. Benjamin was said to have been leading the investigation.
“I think it’s a move in the right direction but I am still of the belief that if the government had moved in this manner on the first situation that we probably — not saying that they are connected — but I don’t think we would have reached to this point where someone would have lost their life, and we suspect that it is in the line of duty,” Pringle said yesterday.
“When you look at your Customs officers, police, your Immigration officers, these are what the US call border control law enforcement agencies, so we should treat them with the highest of regard and make sure we go to the length and breadth to solve some of these crimes.”
In addition to seeking international help for the attack on Benjamin, the main opposition United Progressive Party had also written to the Governor General, the Prime Minister, and the Commissioner of Police to request that an enquiry be mounted given the circumstances and the fraud probe.
The GG’s response suggested that local police officers should be allowed to first establish a motive for the shooting, however Pringle is questioning the tight-lipped approach taken by the police force.
“Months would have passed, and we haven’t heard anything about it. How close or how far they are, if they are still at the beginning, we haven’t gotten any information,” he said.
“I heard the Commissioner some time recently and I think we need a lot more of this where the police give the public the information. Not that you are going to give them your evidence or source, but just an update as to where we are in certain cases because they are of national debate, and I think there are other individuals within the public, and within the Customs department or Immigration department, [who] should be fearful based on how things are going.
“These are things that we have to deal with and go to the length and breadth for,” Pringle said.
Despite the heinous nature of both crimes, Pringle still believes that Antigua and Barbuda is a safe place.
Earlier this week, Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney reported that there had been a decrease in most crimes during the first six months of 2020, compared to the same period last year.