St. Kitts opposition keeps bribery scandal as major issue

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Douglas being interviewed outside of parliament (WINN FM photo)

A war of words has erupted between Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris and the Opposition Leader Dr. Denzil Douglas regarding the controversy that has erupted in the region after several Caribbean politicians had been implicated in a bribery scandal involving a British investor.

Speaking at a town hall meeting here on Sunday, Prime Minister Harris has dismissed calls for his resignation in the wake of the allegations and again denied any involvement in any business transaction involving Peter Virdee, whose telephone conversations with his business partner, Dieter Trutschler, in 2016, had been recorded by German authorities.

Harris Douglas
Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris (Left) and Opposition Leader Dr. Denzil Douglas

Earlier this month, a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister noted that it “has been made aware” of the media reports on the recent judgement of the English High Court.

But the statement claimed that the judgement references a period of time beginning in 2014 and that Prime Minister Harris “cannot speak to what may have occurred prior to his assumption of office of the Prime Minister on February 18th, 2015”.

Harris told the audience that his predecessor was “out of order” to call for his resignation and described the accusation and allegation as “craziness”.

Harris reiterated that he never offered or took any bribe saying “nobody can bribe me.

“I understand hard life. I understand poverty…I understand having to wake up early in the morning and going to mango garden to get the ripest mango so I can eat for breakfast and lunch. You think champagne can change my mind?

“That’s why I don’t drink it. You think wine can impact my judgement on behalf of the people. That’s why I hardly drink it,” said Harris.

But in statement Monday, Douglas said that it was quite noticeable that Prime Minister Harris, during his “ Open Forum” did not refer to the commentary made by Queen Counsel Charles Wilkin on the controversy, but instead chose to refer to another legal opinion “which was secured at heavy expenses to the tax payers of St. Kitts and Nevis”.

He wondered whether or not that the prime minister’s position was guided by the various questions posed by Wilkin.

“And one of the questions which Timothy Harris must answer is whether Virdee was granted a St. Kitts-Nevis Diplomatic Passport by the St. Kitts-Nevis government, with the full knowledge and consent of PM Harris even though Virdee is not and never was a citizen of St. Kitts-Nevis”.

Douglas said that as Opposition Leader and a former head of government he is on record as saying that he does not mind “with this new mood of transparency” that the government “releases the names of all the economic citizens” for whom the former government approved “diplomatic passports so that we can see if there are other Virdees lurking in our future…”.

“We continue to believe and agree with QC Wilkin conclusions that Virdee’s “allegations create potentially adverse implications for the name of our country. Therefore the country deserves full disclosure on all connections between Virdee and officials here past and present,” Douglas said.

Former Antigua and Barbuda minister of Investment and Trade Minister Asot Michael earlier this month resigned from the Gaston Browne government after Virdee in the court documents disclosed in the British High Court alleged that Michael had asked him for two million dollars, as well as to buy a car for his mother.

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