Antigua diplomat finds himself in midst of international bribery scandal
ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Declaring himself innocent of wrongdoing, embattled Antigua and Barbuda ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Casroy James has vowed to return money paid to him by a Brazilian company involved in an international bribery scandal.
Antigua and Barbuda was among countries named in court documents filed by the United States Government yesterday, which alleged that Odebretch, a global construction conglomerate, and other co-conspirators paid nearly US$8 million in bribes to government officials in about a dozen countries.
The documents state that “in or about mid-2015, Odebrecht Employee 4 attended a meeting in Miami, Florida, with a consular official from Antigua and an intermediary to a high-level government official in Antigua in order to conceal Odebrecht’s corrupt activities”.
“Odebrecht Employee 4 requested that the high-level official refrain from providing to international authorities various banking documents that would reveal illicit payments made by the Division of Structured Operations on behalf of Odebrecht, and agreed to pay US$4 million to the high-level official to refrain from sending the documents,” they added.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne took strong action yesterday, firing Antigua & Barbuda’s Honorary Consul to Brazil, Luis Franca, while demanding a full explanation from James, warning that he would be fired if he failed to give a “satisfactory explanation if any money has been paid to him”
In a statement issued yesterday, James admitted he attended the meeting and received an undisclosed sum of money, but was adamant that the funds were payment for his work as an independent consultant when he working on behalf of Global Residency and Advisory Services Limited.
According to the Antigua Observer, James said Meinl Bank, which Odebrecht acquired in 2010, made the payment.
“I attended the Miami meeting as the principal of Global Residency and Advisory Services Ltd and not as an agent of the Antigua and Barbuda Government or as an agent for any Antiguan government official. I attended the Miami meeting in a personal and professional capacity,” the ambassador explained in his statement.
He strongly denied knowing that his client was involved in any illegal activity, or that he had reason to believe that Meinl Bank was in any way affiliated to Odebrecht.
According to the United States Department of Justice, Odebrecht pleaded guilty to one count of criminal information this week and agreed to pay a combined total penalty of at least US$3.5 billion to resolve charges with the authorities.