U.K. crime-fighting agency says criminal charges not ruled out for Asot Michael

Asot Michael (File Photo)

Crime investigators in the United Kingdom are not ruling out criminal charges against Antigua and Barbuda’s Member of Parliament, Asot Michael, who was held by the National Crime Agency (NCA) for some time on Monday.

That’s according to a document that OBSERVER media received from a U.K source, who confirmed it was also sent to Karen Mae-Hill, Antigua and Barbuda’s High Commissioner to the U.K., and other government officials in the twin island.

The document, prepared by Patrick Reilly, the Head of the Caribbean, Central America & Mexico Department, states that “Mr. Michael was arrested for questioning in connection with an NCA investigation into bribes paid by a U.K. national for business contracts in the Caribbean. Mr. Michael was released under investigation with no conditions imposed but we cannot rule out the possibility of criminal charges in due course.”

This information from the NCA reveals that the MP for the St. Peter Constituency was held for more than just a routine interview, contrary to what he had suggested earlier.

The NCA leads the U.K. law enforcement’s response to bribery, corruption and sanctions evasion, according to its website. Its reach is not limited to the U.K. as it works to increase protection against corruption overseas, by engaging foreign law enforcement agencies to improve their response to this threat.

It was on Tuesday that Michael told the media, via an emailed statement, that he was “informed” that his arrest in the U.K. was something “often done when persons are travelling and not expected to remain in the United Kingdom.”

He denied that U.K. authorities advised him he may be wanted for additional questioning, a claim that he falsely accused a reporter of making when, in fact, it was stated by his Government’s Chief of Staff, Lionel “Max” Hurst.

Michael also chided Prime Minister Gaston Browne for issuing an order to strip him of his portfolios – albeit pending the outcome of his arrest – saying the move was unjustified and unfortunate.

(More in today’s Daily Observer)