ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Investigations into the multi-million dollar Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Company Limited (IHI) scandal has been dealt a major blow, following what Commissioner of Police Vere Browne has described as the “brazen, wanton and deliberate” theft of sensitive documents from the High Court.
Browne also said security has been stepped up at all the country’s courts.
As a result of the infraction, “a special investigative team has been set up to trace, locate and try to identify the culprit or culprits,” the commissioner of police said on state television last night.
He has promised that once caught, the perpetrators “will be dealt with the full extent of the law.”
Browne said that having gained entry into the High Court building some time between Monday night and early Tuesday morning, the perpetrator(s) “forced open the office that houses detectives probing the IHI case.”
Files containing the IHI documents as well as those for another investigation, Sly Soft, which deals with the breach of copyright laws for software, were then stolen from a locked cabinet, which “was pried open.”
The Sly Soft matter is scheduled for hearing in the High Court next month.
Last year, government quashed a Commission of Enquiry into the IHI matter, which allegedly involves former prime minister Lester Bird and his one-time junior minister of finance, Asot Michael.
In a press statement a few years ago, Attorney General Justin Simon called the IHI matter “a gigantic conspiracy engineered and effected by persons in high places to rob this country of millions of dollars right up to the year 2021.
“These monthly payments were, by an agreement dated September 11, 1997, to be made over a period of 25 years beginning December 31, 1996 (retrospectively nine months before the agreement was signed) and would have amounted to an aggregate payment of US $121,000,200.
“Out of that monthly sum of US $403,334 coming out of the Government Treasury, only US $199,740.25 would be legitimately paid to IHI Japan, amounting to an aggregate sum of US $59,922,075 over the 25 years. In simple arithmetical terms, US $61,078,125 in excess of the total sum due IHI Japan would have been misappropriated out of the Treasury,” Simon said.
After the controversial dismantling of the Commission of Enquiry, a special investigative team was established to commence criminal investigations into the allegations of fraud.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)