Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has brushed aside suggestions of a link between his administration and a Chinese billionaire charged in the United States for providing bribes to a former Antigua and Barbuda top United Nations diplomat.
The main opposition United Workers Party (UWP) has been calling on Skerrit to come clean on the issue ever since court records in the United States showed that a complaint had been brought by the United States attorney for the Southern District, charging Dr. John Ashe, who once served as president of the United Nations General Assembly and five others, including a billionaire developer from the Chinese territory of Macau.
The complaint alleges that the five, including billionaire Bg Lap Seng, also known as David Ng, paid bribes to the former Antigua and Barbuda diplomat in exchange for “benefits from the UN and the government of Antigua and Barbuda.”
In addition, the complaint charges, the former diplomat received more than US$800,000 in bribes from “various Chinese businessmen” and that as part of the scheme, he “shared a portion of the bribe payments” with senior Antiguan government officials, including the prime minister.
Skerrit, who, was seen in a photograph, taken before the arrests, with the men in Macau, brushed aside questions from reporters on the issue at a news conference here.
“I mean, you are really asking that question?” he asked, adding “the FBI told you that they are interested in me?”
“I am telling you madam that I have no association with this matter. None. And there is no authority in this world that is interested in Roosevelt Skerrit in any undue manner. None whatsoever. You should ask Mr. (Lennox) Linton (UWP Leader) about his information. Present the facts to you to make some assertions without the facts. Which facts?”
Linton had earlier told a news conference that Skerrit owed it to the population to speak out on the matter and challenged Skerrit if he so desires and want to clear his name, to consider waiving his immunity as the head of the country so that the FBI can do their investigations as a “fitting, proper person to be leading Dominica at this time …”
But Skerrit told reporters he has no diplomatic immunity protecting him.
“As prime Minister I do not have diplomatic immunity anywhere in the world including Dominica,” he said.
“If I were to commit a crime in Dominica I could be arrested or in Grenada or in the United States. So I do not have diplomatic immunity. Courtesies are extended to me as the Prime Minister of this country but I do not have diplomatic immunity in any country in the world at any time.”
“So that is for the information and education of the media…Mr. Skerrit is certainly not worried about himself!”
Skerrit confirmed the authenticity of the photograph with him and the Chinese investor, saying he was not the only leader whose photo had been taken during the function.
“I’m trying to understand where does Roosevelt Skerrit come into this matter,” the Prime Minister told reporters.
Source: Caribbean News Service