PM annoyed by people trying to make connection between forgery of his signature and Nigel Christian’s murder

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Prime Minister Gaston Browne

Prime Minister Gaston Browne seems to have had just about enough of people suggesting that there might be a link between the forging of his signature and the brutal murder of Customs Inspector Nigel Christian.

The Prime Minister kept his cool, but one could not miss the frustration in his voice after a caller to the Browne and Browne Show on Pointe FM suggested, among other things, that the nation’s leader has been too quiet on the issue, which the caller described as “the biggest breach of national security.”

The Prime Minister would have none of it.

“This idea about quiet tune, I don’t know what Sir you and others expect me to do,” Browne said.

“What else you want me to do? You want me to go on Boggy Peak and shout about it? I’ve stated everything that I know and obviously law enforcement is not going to share all of the details, not even with me as Prime Minister, and I don’t want to know all the details either, all I want to know is that they’re working assiduously to bring these people to justice.

“You all need to allow the system to work and I don’t see how this could ever define the prime-ministership of the country, that is just utter nonsense,” Browne added.

Brokers were exploiting weakness in ASYCUDA system

While noting that the matter is before law enforcement, the Prime Minister explained that what happened was that a number of brokers were exploiting an IT weakness within the ASYCUDA [Automated System for Customs Data] system.

He said they were able to manipulate the system to the extent that they owe customs a few million dollars in taxes.

“That’s a matter for the police. That is not a matter for the Prime Minister,” Browne said.

“We are transparent and we made it clear to the public what was going on and what action is being taken. The Comptroller of Customs has written to the police asking them to investigate the issue — to investigate not only the undermining of the process in which they literally robbed customs of a few million dollars, but also to look at the issue of the superimposition of the Prime Minister’s signature.

PM’s theory on how his signature was forged

Prime Minister Browne explained how he believed his signature was forged.

“Now, what would have happened, whenever someone gets a duty-free, let’s say on a motor vehicle, I will sign the warrant authorizing it. And what seems to have happened in a few cases is that a few brokers — who are not necessarily involved in this Nigel Christian shooting — these are not brokers who are involved in the big case as we know it with one broker who may have robbed the revenue of about $3 million; these are some smaller brokers who are hustling and what they did they seems to have copied the signature on one of the warrants and superimposed it on another,” the Prime Minister said.

“But for some reason, people are trying to make a direct connection as though the signature has something to do with the murder. Why you all would come to that conclusion? And we do not even know that even the particular broker who would have robbed the revenue of about $3 million by manipulating the system, that he’s involved in the murder either. We have to allow law enforcement to do their work.

“And I do not know — based on the fact that progress is being made by the police as well as the FBI — I don’t know that there’s any need for any so-called independent investigation at this time. Allow law enforcement to do their work,” Browne added.

PM rejects call for Raju Boddu’s dismissal

The Prime Minister also dismissed a suggestion by the caller that the Comptroller of Customs, Raju Boddu, should be asked to resign or fired.

“The suggestion that the Comptroller of Customs should resign, that is utter nonsense,” Browne said.

“The Comptroller, not even the customs officers were aware of the glitch that existed within the ASYCUDA system. They didn’t design it, they didn’t design it with the glitch.

“It so happens that the way in which the software is designed, the customs brokers who are licensed they have the opportunity to key into the system electronically and to input their information, and by so doing, they were able to manipulate a glitch in the system to the extent — at least in the case of one broker — he robbed customs of over $3 million and the matter is being investigated.”

25 COMMENTS

  1. “All we want is the money back dont want to press charges” sounds like a glitch in that system also. I can recall it was said a particular individual held on to auction money for that same entity, no charges was pressed, we were told the monies were paid back. People minds will wonder when they see certain patterns

  2. The whole affair smells that is why people are speculating and trying to make connections between both matters. For your information Prime Minister we live in a so-called democratic country where the Rule of Law should prevail. In the missing $3 million at Customs, it was a police matter and not for the Comptroller of Customs to investigate and sweep the issue on the rug. That happened because you as Prime Minister announced to the nation that all you wanted was the money back. First to commence, that was a most unfortunate statement on your part. It was not something for you to be putting your mouth in, but it seems as if you feel comfortable putting your mouth in everything. Secondly, under the Customs Management and Control Act, the Comptroller of Customs only has the authority to investigate minor breaches of the Customs Act and can impose disciplinary action. Any breach of the Customs Act which involves the punishment of a prison sentence, such as the $3 million fraud, is a matter for the police to investigate and not the Comptroller of Customs. It is your duty Prime Minister to see to it that the Rule of Law is upheld and not trampled on as it was in this case. Please take note. By the way, the Comptroller of Customs said that his investigation was over so the nation is still waiting to get a report. That is what should obtain in a civilized country.

    • No its you, your party UPP and y’all little auxiliary group trying to make a connection for political purpose……
      How I never heard you arguing about the lady that will knock down and killed in a hit and run a few years ago when upp was in power… what happen that mother of 9 children didn’t have the political value that this Nigel Christian case can bring?
      There are nine children without a mother and it was a hit and run and the UPP know why they allowed that to be swept under the carpet…..
      the story here is one the UPP fabricated for political mileage plain and simple

      Were you tabor there when women in Antigua were being raped by the dozens monthly and your upp administration held their hands behind their backs hoping the public didnt notice there was a trend of rape taking place all over Antigua?

      Tabor go look a new audience because most people here know the demons you trying to promote through any means necessary.

    • Stop being untruthful, PM in the very beginning made clear that no matter the person, they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I also see you with some strange logic regarding customs investigative powers , though I disagree with you, its been made clear since the beginning of this year that the police are involved in the said investigation. There is an article done earlier this year by Carl Joseph which quotes the comptroller as making clear that criminal charges are not off the table (see Customs mulls criminal action in $3m fraud scandal – Antigua, Jan 30, 2020, ) . Telling for me is that in 2012, one of the the brokers (the major one)involved here (allegedly) was also involved in a major customs fraud. This involved a container for Cool & Smooth. The broker was only fined. Was Harold Lovell not minister of finance then? I gather you were too busy in the Luxury compartment, of that express train, to advocate for criminal charges? If that stance had been taken then perhaps this matter would not be happening now.

      • So Tenman,why no one has been charged with Forgery.The Prime Minister on his Radio Station.He said that someone,a Customs Broker forged his signature.He went on to say that the person should repaid the money he got from such forgeries of his signature.He did not want that person to be arrested.Even Max Hurst did say.That the person should repay the monies and should not be arrested.They did not want to press charges.In my opinion it should have become a Police matter.When the Prime Minister said so.He cannot cover up a crime.If someone did Forge his signature.That is a crime.He also did say it was not the first time.That Customs Broker was involved in skulduggery.Back then he repaid the funds.Any ordinary man/woman would have been arrested for certain.Unless he /she is an insider.Then you would get many options.So Tenman,is that thief an insider?That person did not thief from Gaston Browne. Gaston Browne’s signature was forge to thief from the PEOPLE.So we the people want are we money back,now.It is going now for over 9 months.

    • @ TABOR
      Tabor you are trying your very best to gain an audience on this topic. You are also trying to engineer propaganda on this topic. You are working very hard for UPP. Someone told me that your are supporting UPP just in case a miracle happens for you to be ATTORNEY GENERAL. We both agree that is WISHFUL THINKING. Stop trying to gain support by PROPAGANDA.

  3. What a man we have as a PM. I wonder if he’s please with himself? What progress are the law enforcement making? Why wasn’t comrade Freeland arrested, charged n jailed for missing custom auction money? Is it because he a comrade? Wasn’t the near death of the customs investigator Benjamin enough to seek assistant, or many more may have to go out like my friend Nigel before you see that the police here are not equipped nor up to par to handle matter like these?

  4. Listen, we have to stay on top of this situation. When Gaston saying “what you want me to do”? Be aware, I have heard those words before when he don’t want to do anything. Mr. Prime Minister, we expect you to lead. You are telling me that someone forged your signature and you’re not concerned. No consequences for criminal acts? Can I go and do the same? Glitch in the system, why is not fixed? Nonsense Prime Minister. Citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, let’s get to the bottom of this. Don’t let Gaston Browne pull wool over our eyes. The corruption is blatant. Enough is enough.

  5. People will speculate and put two and two together when the PM specifically states that he does NOT want a fraud of $3M to be criminally prosecuted. WTF!!! Of course people will be suspicious.

  6. Jack Daniel you guys always miss the fundamental points and in your response go off on irrelevant tangents. The fundamental points in my comments are as follows: (1) the Comptroller of Customs had no authority to investigate the matter (2) the matter should have been investigated by the police (3) the Commissioner of Police was wrong and failed in his duty when he said that he was only concerned about the Cornel Benjamin shooting and not the Customs fraud (4) the Prime Minister stated publicly that he only wanted to get thd money back. These are the fundamental issues that you should have addressed in your comments. The whole issue was handled badly by the authorities. They turned the principle of the Rule of Law upside down and botched the entire investigation. Finally, the nation is still awaiting the report of the investigation by the Comptroller of Customs.

  7. Some people will always use former political situation for excuses although they have facts in front of them at the moment. It is alarming with these two event:
    Money held back from auction (no charges pressed)
    $3 million fraud (we dont wish to press charges)
    Why?

  8. If it walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck and it looks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. Everyone can see the likely involvement of the PM in this affair

  9. Labour supporters like Jack Daniel and needed a few good journalist. Please stick to the point and stop trying to defend the indefensible. Did Gaston say he don’t want any investigation into the $3m fraud? Could I go and forge Gaston signature and get away with it? Can you? Well maybe you can, depends on who you are. Let’s put party aside. A custom officer got shot. Another custom officer is killed. There Are all kinds of corruption going on. Now you want to distract by blaming Newsroom reporters. Antiguans want to know. Let me put this out before y’all tell me about party. If I had my way, it would be a third party. I am sooo tired of the corruption. Rubbish.

    • No Gaston Browne never stated such. When he first spoke on this issue via Point FM, he made clear this is a serious matter and the person would be prosecuted to the fullest extend that the law allows. The clips are easily available via the point fm Facebook page for persons to listen to

      • Tenman Hughes please stop talking nonsense. The whole investigation into the Customs fiasco was improperly handled from the outset. Let me state again that it was not for the Comptroller of Customs to mount any investigation into the alleged fraud, it was for the police. And by the way, from the very outset of this matter the Prime Minister and before him Max Hurst made it clear to this nation that they were only concerned with the pay back of the money. Even worse, the Commissioner of Police also stated (and I heard it with my own ears) that he was only concerned about the shooting of Cornel Benjamin and not the alleged fraud at the Customs.

        • Why do you persist in calling me the wrong name? You seem to hear plenty things, yet miss many other things. Its like your hearing is set to hear only what you wish to hear. I know there is a Daily Observer article from October which makes clear the police have been asked by Cabinet to investigate the customs fraud matter (see Police asked to investigate $3 million in missing Customs …antiguaobserver.com › police-asked-to-investigate-3-mi…
          Oct 11, 2019). As far as for what the PM stated, one needs only listen to his statement on point FM late last year, to hear him state clearly let the chips fall where they may.

  10. Tenman Hughes the Prime Minister could have stated on Pointe FM late last year to “let the chips fall where they may “‘, however that does not change the fact that he made it clear at the outset that all he wanted was the return of the money. He also said the same thing in the matter involving Michael Freeland so it would appear that ithat is his position when money is missing. Even if I take your point that the police had been asked by Cabinet to investigate the Customs fraud, have you ever heard an update by the police of this investigation. More importantly, don’t you find it rather strange that the Cabinet should have to ask the police to investigate such a major crime? The investigation of crimes is the raison d’etre of the police and no one should have to tell them to investigate crimes, in particular the Executive. Antigua and Barbuda generally and the Police in particular need to start to behave as if Antigua and Barbuda is a real country. As I said before this whole affair was handled improperly, especially with the Customs Department taking the lead on the commission of such a major crime. If what you have said is all correct, the police need to update us now on the Customs investigation which was turned over to them and their continuation of the said investigation. We need to stop playing games in this country.

  11. Imbecile is the only word that comes to mind. Why at the helm of police port customs hospital health are there spineless foreigners who sugarcoat everything, jump when PM says to and just stick their heads in the sand.
    PM, you will now see some real bacchanal, you took no action and our own natives got in the line of fire literally, if you think Antiguans were docile, the beast in us has awaken.

  12. @TABOR: You should have been a CID OFFICER. I knew a Cornel Hughes.When I grew up in Antigua. Cornel “Tenman”Hughes is that you.LOL

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