Prime Minister Gaston Browne said if Member of Parliament Asot Michael is charged with a criminal offense he would not be a candidate in his Antigua and Barbuda Labor Party (ABLP) at the next general election.
Michael was questioned by British police in London recently in relation to an investigation into bribes paid by a UK national for business contracts in the Caribbean.
He was recently arrested by police at Gatwick Airport for questioning. The prime minister acted immediately to suspend him as tourism, economic development, investment and energy minister.
Browne noted that Michael was arrested, not merely detained, as some have argued, and was released “under investigation” and that there was a “possibility of criminal charges in due course.”
The prime minister said that the arrest was sufficient to revoke his ministerial portfolio pending the outcome of the investigation.
Browne said that he automatically assumed Michael’s former portfolios and that by next week he will announce which ministers will take over those responsibilities.
Michael has maintained his innocence, rejecting what he described as “untrue and misleading” an article and broadcast by Observer Media.
Bahamas Finance Minister Peter Turnquest said that he had discussed the possibility of the European Union (EU) placing the Caribbean country an EU tax haven blacklist and the work has already done to avoid the blacklisting.
He said The Bahamas is disappointed to have learned that the EU Code of Conduct Group (COCG) will be making a recommendation to the Council of the European soon to include The Bahamas on the EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes.
Turnquest said throughout this process, The Bahamas has consistently been engaged with the OECD and the COCG on the EU listing criteria.
Last month, the Bahamian parliament passed thee financial transactions and reporting bills- the Credit Report Bill; the Proceeds of Financial Crimes Bill; and the Financial Transactions Reporting Bill.
The finance minister noted that The Bahamas has taken immediate steps to reiterate its commitment to the European Union Commission with respect to the non-facilitation of offshore structures and arrangements in the jurisdiction aimed at attracting profits without real economic substance for the purpose of profit shifting.
Turnquest said discussions were held recently with the secretary general of the COCG regarding their specific concerns, followed by a formal letter.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has announced that “significant gas and oil” have been found in the territorial waters of Grenada.
The announcement was made during a massive rally in St. Andrew’s, two days before the general election.
He said the discovery was made by Russian outfit Global Petroleum Group (GPG) which has been undergoing an exploratory drilling campaign.
“The report said that we have found significant gas and oil in the waters of Grenada in one Well so far,” Dr. Mitchell said.
Earlier in the year, the government disclosed that it had issued a license to the Russian-based GPG to conduct the necessary exploration activities to locate oil and gas within the island’s territorial waters.
Last June, Parliament approved the Hydro Carbon Exploration Incentive Bill 2017 outlining a package of incentives for oil and gas exploration to any company
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is not happy about Jamaica’s economic growth, which is averaging only 0.9 percent since the country began its economic reform program in 2013.
A statement issued at the end of a third review of the Stand-By Agreement (SBA) the island has with the Washington-based financial institution, noted that the consideration by the IMF executive board is scheduled for April and the “upon approval, an additional US$233 million would be made available to Jamaica, bringing the total accessible credit to about US$1,033 billion.”
The 36-month SBA, with a total access of US$1.68 billion, was approved by the IMF on November 11, 2016.
The Jamaican authorities continue to view the SBA as precautionary, an insurance policy against unforeseen external economic shocks that are beyond Jamaica’s control,” the statement added.
It said entrenched structural obstacles, including crime, bureaucratic processes, insufficient labor force skills, and poor access to finance, continue to hinder productivity and growth.
Some St. Lucians are protesting a reported Sandals Resort’s $24.4 million government tax write-off dating back to 2001, including interest and penalties.
During a public demonstration recently some protestors called on the Resorts owner, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, to pay a disputed tax assessment of more than $24 million.
Stewart is accused of interfering in St. Lucia elections in the same way that he is trying to do in Antigua and Barbuda through the Jamaica Observer.
Similar issues and concerns are also being raised in Barbados where a general election is to be held soon and there are persistent reports that he may have contributed (to the Turks and Caicos fairly strict campaign finance laws) to the election campaign of the current government in the British Territory.
— Compiled by Azad Ali