ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Wednesday May 16, 2o18 – Antigua and Barbuda’s Trade and Investment Minister Asot Michael has resigned from the Cabinet amid allegations that he is linked to a British investor accused of bribery.
Michael yesterday submitted his resignation letter, which takes effect tomorrow, to Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who accepted it and asked Governor General Sir Rodney Williams to revoke his appointment. The move comes on the heels of the opposition United Progressive Party’s (UPP) political leader Harold Lovell calling for him to either step down or be fired.
Although insisting that he had done nothing wrong, Michael said he would resign “to allow the government to fulfil its obligations to the people, without any distraction”.
A court in the United Kingdom last week heard transcripts of 2016 conversations between British billionaire Peter Virdee and his business partner Dieter Trutschler, in which Virdee talked about being asked for bribes.
In the recordings, made by German authorities, the investor said Michael had asked him for a car for his mother, $2 million, and a watch.
The media reports on the court revelations prompted Lovell to demand the removal of Michael who had been fired as minister of tourism, economic development, investment and energy last October, after he was arrested in London, but returned to the Cabinet after the March 21 elections in which he won his seat.
Lovell contended that the latest controversy “once again drags the name of Antigua and Barbuda into the mud”.
“It is absolutely important that Mr Michael should do the right thing and he should resign immediately. Failing an immediate resignation Prime Minister Gaston Browne ought to relive him immediately of his responsibilities,” he said.
But even as he stepped down, Michael insisted that he was “not a party to the court proceedings in the United Kingdom which have been reported in the media, nor have I been charged with any wrongdoing. The media reports refer to recordings of conversations between persons other than myself, and I cannot be held responsible for their utterances”.
He charged that the allegations were being used by “opposition political elements” to seek to discredit him and the Government.
And Michael’ said he would do all in his power to counter and disprove allegations made against him.
“I am determined that the calumnies against me shall not stand,” he wrote in his resignation letter.
Michael is not the only Caribbean politician under the microscope as a result of the revelations in the British court.
St Kitts and Nevis’ Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris is facing calls from the opposition party to step down as well, since his name was also mentioned.