ST JOHN’S, Antigua — The Integrity Commission of Antigua and Barbuda should investigate the circumstances involving the recent arrest in the UK of former tourism minister Asot Michael says former attorney general Justin Simon QC.
Michael was arrested and released in London last week after being questioned about allegations having to do with bribes being paid by a UK national for business contracts in the Caribbean. At that time he was fired as tourism chief by the Prime Minister.
Simon speaking on a radio programme said the Integrity Commission is charged with investigating the conduct of public officials, including ministers of government, Antigua News Room reported.
He said the matter should not be allowed to “simply die” because we are waiting to see what unfolds in the UK or if no charges are laid against former minister Michael.
“We do have an Integrity Commission and we do have a code of conduct in respect to the behaviour of public officials, which includes ministers of government. The Integrity Commission has to address matters of integrity and if there has been a breach of the code of conduct as well as whether individuals have breached also the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act,” Simon said.
He noted that the Commission has the powers to independently investigate complaints “it may have heard,” without a formal complaint being lodged.
Simon said the allegation for which Michael was questioned is very serious with far reaching effects, adding that integrity in public office is critical and should be maintained.
“If the Integrity Commission hears matters then it is under a duty on its own volition to make the necessary investigation, and I would hope that this would be done.
“And I would go further to say that if the prime minister has any information which allowed him to take the decision to remove Mr Michael immediately from the portfolio then clearly that information should be passed on to the Integrity Commission for them to do their own investigation, independent of the criminal investigation, which is being conducted.
“Let us deal with this matter at all angles and in all respects because at the end of the day the government and also Antigua and Barbuda, as an independent nation, is now under the microscope,” Simon said.
The former attorney general said it would be incumbent on Radford Hill, head of the Integrity Commission, to pursue the matter in the interest of the nation.
He said all eyes would be on the Commission to see what is done in this matter and “make a determination as to whether the Commission is serious or it is just yet another foot stool of the government that only acts in certain situations [and] fails to act when it ought to given the mandate it has under the legislation.”