ST JOHN’S, Antigua, Tuesday January 10, 2017 – In an about turn, Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne is standing behind the island’s embattled ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Casroy James, who has been linked to the Brazilian company Odebrecht embroiled in an international bribery scandal.
Last month, Antigua and Barbuda was listed among countries named in United States court documents that alleged Odebrecht and other co-conspirators paid nearly US$8 million in bribes to Government officials in about a dozen countries.
The documents claim that an Odebrecht employee met with a consular official from Antigua and an intermediary to a high level government official in Antigua in order to conceal the corrupt activities of the global construction conglomerate.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne fired Antigua & Barbuda’s Honorary Consul to Brazil, Luis Franca, and demanded a full explanation from James, warning that he would also be sacked if he failed to give a satisfactory explanation.
In his response, James admitted that 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 working on behalf of Global Residency and Advisory Services Limited.
The Ambassador said Meinl Bank, which Odebrecht acquired in 2010, made the payment but he was not aware of any affiliation between the two entities.
Prime Minister Browne told the Antigua Observer he was satisfied that James had not engaged in wrongdoing.
“The information that he provided to me…it is less than €3 million and he actually presented a contract to confirm that he had a legitimate deal with them,” he said.
Browne has also stated emphatically that “there was no conflict of interest”, insisting that at the time James was not an ambassador.
“He only got his [accreditation] from the UAE in July of  so it would have meant that he acted in his personal capacity at the time,” the prime minister said.