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Antigua and Barbuda and the ‘Odebrecht case’

[On July 28, EL PAÍS published an interview with Rodrigo Tacla, a lawyer who worked for Odebrecht, a global construction company based in Brazil, and who is now facing trial in Spain on charges of bribery and graft. In 2016, Odebrecht admitted to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials from Brazil and other countries where the construction firm operated.

In December 2016, the US Justice Department announced that Odebrecht had agreed to pay $2.6 billion in fines.

In his interview with EL PAÍS, Tacla stated that in January 2016 Odebrecht paid €3 million to Gaston Browne, the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, as a bribe in exchange for not complying with a request for information issued by Brazilian authorities.

Mr Tacla provides no evidence for this serious and unfounded charge, which has been categorically denied by Mr Browne]:

I have never met Mr Tacla, nor have I attended, or been aware of, any meeting between Antigua and Barbuda government employees and Odebrecht representatives. I have not received any money, either in the form of a bribe or anything else, directly or indirectly, from Odebrecht; nor have I authorized or been aware of any illegal activity with regard to the matters that Mr Tecla is asked about during the interview.

Antigua and Barbuda is part of the 1992 Inter-American Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, as are Brazil and the United States. According to this convention, any request made by relevant foreign officials in connection with an investigation is filed with the attorney general, and as long as the application is duly filled out, it is systematically relayed to the corresponding independent investigation and public order authorities, so that the latter may undertake opportune action. This request for cooperation may be denied in specific circumstances, for instance if the request is consider to pertain to a political crime or a common crime that is being persecuted for political reasons.

Constitutionally, in Antigua and Barbuda there are clearly defined limits when it comes to the separation of powers between the Government, public order authorities and the courts. If the attorney general decided to deny a request over its political nature, his decision could be challenged in court. In any case, as a prime minister I have no possibility of intervening in this process, nor have I ever done so.

In mid-2015, Brazilian authorities filed a request with the attorney general of Antigua and Barbuda in connection with their investigation into Odebrecht’s activities. After confirming that the application was duly filled out, the attorney general sent it to the competent investigation authorities of Antigua and Barbuda, and since July 2015 the latter have been scrupulously and dutifully sending Brazilian authorities all the requested information.

This process began at least six months before the date on which, according to Mr Tacla’s statements, I was allegedly paid a bribe to ensure that the authorities of Antigua and Barbuda would provide no information whatsoever to Brazil regarding the Odebrecht investigation.

It follows that the accusation made against me by Mr Tacla is not only false, but there is also evidence to prove that it is.— Gaston Browne. Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda.