ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, CMC – The ruling Antigua and Barbuda Labor Party (ABLP) called on former prime minister Baldwin Spencer and the former finance minister, Harold Lovell, to explain their roles in at least two banking scandals it claimed occurred under their stewardship while in government between 2004 to 2014.
The ALBP said that it had taken note of a New Year statement by Spencer talking about “banking scandals” and putting a “negative world spotlight” on Antigua and Barbuda.
It recalled that Spencer was at the head of the government when the first international banking scandal occurred under R Allen Stanford and during the period of the Meinl Bank money laundering operations.
The ruling party said it is now calling on both Spencer and Lovell, who now heads the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) to indicate what or any links they may have had “to the Brazil Oldebrecht saga now occupying international headlines, including the purchase of Meinl Bank in 2010”.
Last month, Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced the dismissal of an honorary consul as his administration continues its investigations into claims linking it to corrupt activities related to the Brazilian multinational, Odebrecht S. A. and the energy company, Petrobras.
Browne said he had dismissed Honorary Consul to Brazil, Luis Franca, and had asked the Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Casroy James, for an explanation.
"We cannot escape the fact that certain allegations were made that funds were paid to an individual. That is a matter of some concern to my government,” Browne said then after his government had earlier issued a statement indicating that it was intent on getting to the bottom of this story since it alleges involvement by persons claiming to be intermediaries for, or officials of, the government.
"If these allegations are substantiated, I will act immediately and appropriately against any such persons," Prime Minister Browne was quoted as saying in the statement.
The ABLP said that it believes that Spencer, who is now the Opposition Leader, must have had discussions with Franca prior to appointing him as Honorary Consul.
"Franca was one of three Brazilians who fronted the purchase of Meinl Bank in 2010. He continued as Managing Director during his appointment by Spencer as Honorary Consul in Brazil. He was also known to have a close relationship with Harold Lovell, having collaborated with him on several projects," the party said.
The ruling party said it was of the view that “Spencer has a public duty to explain why he appointed Franca and the relationship between him, Franca and Harold Lovell, particularly as it been alleged that hundreds of billions of dollars were laundered through Meinl Bank while Spencer was Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Lovell was Finance Minister and Franca was, at one and the same time, their Honorary Consul to Brazil and the managing director of Meinl Bank.”
Lovell has been quoted by the Observer Radio here as saying that he would be responding to the allegations made by the ruling party.
The ABLP said it was also demanding “an explanation of Lovell’s role with the Brazilian firm, Andrade Gutierrez, and its executives who were arrested for their participation in the Odebrecht scandal.
“The ABLP awaits the response of Spencer and Lovell about Meinl Bank, Kleinfeld and other associates of Oldebrechtand their activities which occurred while they held the highest offices in the land,” the ABLP said in its statement.