A British parliamentarian is calling on Antigua & Barbuda’s Anthony Liverpool to resign from his position as number two on the International Whaling Commission (IWC), over allegations that pro-whaling Japanese interests paid for his stay at a luxurious hotel in Morocco, where he’s attending the annual IWC meeting.
The Sunday Times newspaper in the UK has reported that a Japanese firm prepaid the IWC vice-chairman’s £4,000 (US $5,906) bill at the Atlas Amadil Beach Hotel, where he is booked for two weeks.
It suggested that the arrangement may be in contravention of the IWC convention which states that “the expenses of each member of the commission … shall be determined and paid by his own government.”
The news has prompted British parliamentarian, Barry Gardiner, to call for Ambassador Liverpool to step down from his position on the commission.
“To be in any way compromised by Japan, which is notorious for buying up votes, is unacceptable,” Gardiner told the newspaper.
The Sunday Times article stirred concern because Liverpool is chairing the IWC meeting where the lifting of a 24-year ban on commercial whaling is to be discussed. It is alleged that Japan has been bribing delegates, including those in the Eastern Caribbean, to secure support for ending the moratorium.
According to the newspaper report, when Liverpool was contacted last week, he told the reporter that he did not know who was paying for his trip, saying that he was “just aware of getting support through agencies.”
But the Sunday Times said inquiries showed that the Houston-based Japan Tours and Travel Inc foot the bill for his hotel stay. The paper said the company is said to be linked to Hideuki “Harry” Wakasa, whom a whistle-blower identified as the middleman who gave cash and cheques to pro-whaling Caribbean countries, including payments for their IWC membership fees as well as air fares, hotel accommodation, and subsistence money, when they attend IWC meetings.
The whistle-blower claimed that Wakasa worked on behalf of the Japan Whaling Association which is financed indirectly by the Fisheries Agency and the Overseas Fisheries Co-operation Foundation, an agency sponsored by Japan’s agriculture ministry.
The Sunday Times article related a conversation between its reporter and Ambassador Liverpool, in which he denied knowing Wakasa, but said that there was “nothing extremely odd” about a Japanese whaling association or co-operation foundation paying for his hotel accommodation.
He later said the Government of Antigua & Barbuda had provided support for him to attend the meeting “in a significant way.” Although not denying being funded by the Japanese, the story said, Ambassador Liverpool insisted that the country’s government itself was not paying for him.
The Daily OBSERVER’s efforts to reach the Antiguan diplomat yesterday were unsuccessful.
When the UK newspaper published its first articles a week ago, naming Grenada and St Kitts and Nevis among countries that were taking bribes from Japan, Antigua & Barbuda was not named. Even so, Agriculture Minister Hilson Baptiste told this newspaper that the country was not offered any money or aid in exchange for supporting whaling.
Meantime, in addition to the calls for him to resign, the Antiguan ambassador is expected to be under fire at the IWC meeting.
The UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon told the Sunday Times that he would raise the “serious allegations” highlighted by the newspaper, at the event.
However, it is unclear whether the matter was raised yesterday, since the meeting was suspended so that governments could hold private discussions to break the deadlock on the proposal to allow Japan to resume controlled commercial whaling.
Ambassador Liverpool, who is chairing the IWC meeting in the absence of the ill chairman Christian Maquieira, took the decision to go into closed-door talks shortly after the meeting opened.
International media reports said the move surprised lobbyists, as well as some IWC nations, who wanted the controversial deal to be argued in the open.