Analysts have warned that any fact-finding report aided by attorney-at-law Anthony Astaphan about the Odebrecht-Meinl Bank scandal will lack all credibility. Attorney-at-lawStafford Byers and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Disclosure Today, Rishi Maharaj, have argued that Astaphan’s reputation an Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) lawyer disqualifies him from taking part in any investigation.
Byers warned that “conflicts of interest pertain not just to whether one exists but appearances of its existence”. Byers was speaking on Sunday’s Big Issues alongside Maharaj who said that given Astaphan’s representation of ABLP officials past and present, he should not involve himself.
“Whether or not there is a conflict, once the question of having a relationship or being the attorney for party members comes up…and those same people are allegedly involved…the question is can he ethically take part?” Maharaj said.
Byers also believes that any report or investigation aided by Astaphan will be seen as “a way to get a certain result” and will have “a very deleterious effect.” Up to last year, Astaphan was the attorney representing Prime Minister Gaston Browne and other ABLP officials on an unrelated matter.
However, it is alleged in the OdebrechtMeinl Bank scandal that a bribe was paid by Odebrecht agents to an Antiguan official, and that said bribe was ultimately intended for the prime minister.
The prime minister has denied having arranged or accepted such a bribe, and the Antiguan official, who reportedly received the money, has denied it had anything to do with bribery.
On Friday, Minister of Information Melford Nicholas announced that the Cabinet decided Astaphan should assist the Office of National Drug & Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) in “reviewing and ascertaining” the facts of the Odebrecht-Meinl Bank scandal.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)