Mystery still surrounds the arrest, questioning and then freeing by the London Metropolitan Police of Antigua Tourism and Development Minister Asot Michael after he arrived in the UK on his way to a conference in France.
He was arrested Monday morning immediately after his British Airways flight landed at London’s Gatwick Airport and then questioned for several hours before being released. As is routine in such matters, a suspect has to be charged before pertinent information of the arrest is released. There also is no word whether Michael will be allowed to leave the UK.
Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who is also away on government business, revoked Michael’s appointment as Minister of Tourism, Investment and Energy after the arrest was reported, subject to the outcome of the investigation. But there’s also a question if such an action will remove his diplomatic immunity making him open to re-arrest if the UK police decide on such action.
“While I have no firm details of the reasons for Mr. Michael’s arrest, the arrest itself is sufficient for me to revoke immediately his appointment as a Cabinet member and to relieve him of all Ministerial portfolios until this matter is resolved,” the Prime Minister said.
Browne added: “I have repeatedly stated that I expect every member of my government to comply with the highest possible standards required of public office, and while Mr. Michael might establish his innocence in time, the fact that he has been arrested, obliges me to relieve him of all government duties”
An emergency Cabinet meeting lead by Acting Prime Minister Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin was called in reaction to the news of Michael’s arrest.
Michael has held the St. Peter constituency for the Antigua & Barbuda Labour Party since 2004, having previously served as Chief of Staff to former Prime Minister Lester Bird, and then Minister of Public Works, Communications and Energy, and later Minister of Finance and Leader of Government Business in the Senate.
Michael’s family controls several businesses in Antigua, and he previously made headlines after donating over EC$540,000 to hurricane relief efforts in Dominica after the passage of Hurricane Maria.
Although there has also been no official word on the reason for Michael’s arrest there are suggestions that it is in connection to UK investor Peter Virdee, who himself was arrested for tax evasion in January..