Prime Minister Gaston Browne's Response to Observer Radio Big Issues Programme on Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Report

Prime Minister Gaston Browne's Response to Observer Radio Big Issues Programme on Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Report

Hon. Gaston Browne M.P. Prime Minister

Release Date

Monday, March 27, 2017


I stand by my statement that the US INCSR 2017 report is replete with inaccuracies and that it repeated a lot of Observer Media Group propaganda,” so said the Honourable Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, following a Sunday afternoon broadcast on the Observer Radio.

The Prime Minister explained that the INCSR 2017 Report is utilized extensively by “international banks for purposes of determining de-risking.” The Report is also utilized by our peers in reviewing Antigua and Barbuda’s compliance with international standards, the Prime Minister explained; it therefore has potential negative implications for our visa-free relationship with other countries and for the much-needed-CIP revenues.

To allow these patent inaccuracies to stand uncontroverted, would have been a form of silent self-¬≠condemnation. The consequences of silence would be far greater than any strident defense which the Prime Minister has made,” the Honourable Gaston Browne remarked.

The inaccuracies were numerous and grossly exaggerated. For example, the report stated that Antigua and Barbuda’s offshore sector is ‘tax-free’ when it is not. The INCSR 2017 Report also claimed that Antigua and Barbuda has a ‘large offshore banking and remote gaming jurisdiction’. The facts are, Antigua and Barbuda has less than a handful of Internet gaming operators after the US decimated the industry and put thousands of youth out of work. We are now down to 11 offshore banks with less than $1.5 Billion dollars in assets,” the Prime Minister reported.

The offshore banking sector is by no means medium-sized, much less large,” the Head of Government remarked. “The authors of the INCSR are clueless about the small size and small volume of transactions,” the Prime Minister asserted. Antigua and Barbuda has strengthened its AML/CFT framework and the country has been found to be compliant by all international standards-setting body.

Legislation passed by the Gaston Browne administration include a new offshore banking act, FATCA, Common Reporting Standards and numerous amendments to existing AML/CFT and tax transparency laws to make them fully compliant with international standards. Antigua and Barbuda has cooperated with various US agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Agency, The US State Department. Antigua and Barbuda has also cooperated with the Interpol and many other international agencies.

The country’s level of cooperation with the US is deemed to be even better than that of the USVI and many other countries in the hemisphere,” the Prime Minister revealed.

We operate the most transparent and accountable CIP program in the region and one of the best-governed in the world, with several tiers of due diligence. In the past, under the United Progressive Party administration, only private due diligence providers were used by the Citizenship by Investment Unit, and it reported to a Minister and not the Cabinet. Today, the CIP Unit utilizes private due diligence providers, JRCC, and regularly seek the assistance of friendly governments— including US agencies, to assist with our due diligence,” Prime Minister confirmed.

We publish, twice yearly, all of the CIP information to include all payments and receipts. We even introduced a list of restricted countries whose citizens are ineligible for CIP. We are the first country to introduce three tiers of due diligence, and we have been the standard-setter for due diligence, transparency and accountability,” Prime Minister Browne made clear.

The Prime Minister asks: “How come, with all of the safe¬≠guards, transparency and accountability could anyone characterize our program as the most lax in the world?

We reject that characterization by anyone, no matter how mighty,” the Prime Minister asserted. 

In the human trafficking report, the Observer Media Group published propaganda that US$500K was stolen from our CIP. It is an unfounded, fabricated allegation by a known fabricator of alternative facts. An individual whom the OMG lauded for his mischief and assassination of people's character, and for denigrating the image of our country. OMG is routinely propagating opposition propaganda/nastiness that hurts our country's image. Several of OMG programs are rabid political programs. Accordingly, they will be treated as rabid political opponents and UPP propagandists. The unfortunate result is that many of the regional and international reports on Antigua & Barbuda emanate from the OMG publications; those reports are repeated by the international community as factual,” the Prime Minister asserted.

Finally, we all have a duty to defend our country against all unjust attacks. As your Prime Minister, it is a duty that I take exceedingly seriously. I could not have allowed our country to be unfairly condemned by its silence on the patently false statements appearing in the INCSR reports. Too bad that the shortsighted and disgraced, former UPP Ambassador, Isaac Newton, saw my defense as crass. What was crass was his misconduct, during his short-lived career as a public servant, in which he was fired by former Prime Minister Spencer, for certain wrongdoing. I will always stand in defense of my country, against the aggression of the mighty, even in the face of harm and most vile characterization. This is an unshakeable commitment to my nation and my dear people.

I shall die fighting in defense of our nation.

Much love and blessings.” 

Hon. Gaston Browne M.P.
Prime Minister

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