Prime Minister Gaston Browne – in a very odd way – responded to claims concerning himself and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), on Saturday, March 4, during his weekly radio outing.
Browne neither confirmed nor categorically denied the allegations that he had been questioned by the US agency – saying only that the accusations could not him or his reputation in any way.
“At the end of day, I mean, it’ll be like water off a duck’s back. I mean, there’s no way they can hurt me after all what they’ve said about me,” said Browne, who did not identify the “they” to whom he was referring.
He noted that, leading up to the January 18 General Election, there were allegations that he was wanted by the FBI in connection with the transshipment of billions of United States dollars.
He also said he was aware of rumours that he had been detained and interviewed by FBI officers ahead of his return from a recent trip to The Bahamas.
According to the prime minister, even his security detail was receiving calls inquiring whether the allegations were true; and that person had to assure the callers that he was present with him, Browne.
Apparently, the security detail had received a WhatsApp message saying the FBI had picked up Browne in Miami.
Browne went on to accuse his “opponents” – though unnamed – of spreading these allegations, saying that such claims about him have the potential to ruin the reputation and image of this country.
However, he repeated, there is nothing that anyone can say or do to really hurt him, since he is “tough like nails.”
Going further, Browne accused his political opponents of not only spreading “outlandish lies” and believing them, but actually said the next thing they would try is “to kill.”
He said, further, that people should not entertain the notion that the allegations are part of the cut and thrust of politics, adding that there should be some standard of accountability for those in opposition – and especially those elected, since they are part of the governance system.
Meanwhile, some residents say they are unconvinced by Browne’s attempt to respond to the claims and that he should be the last person to accuse anyone else of lying.
One man says the prime minister’s statement on the issue is the same as “nothing,” since he failed to address the accusations, choosing only to lay blame on the opposition in his usual fashion.
Another critic reminds the public of the Odebrecht scandal; the kidnapping of Mehul Choski case; and, now, the suspicions of human trafficking and smuggling related to the influx of West Africans.
According to the woman, there are allegations that billions of dollars were channeled through a bank in Antigua, and she finds it odd that Browne is not concerned that the future of this country could be at stake.
“Where there is smoke, there is fire,” one man says, and he urges locals to pay attention to what is now taking place.
Others say the prime minister might be able to fool his “acolytes and party members,” but the international agencies will prove much harder to deceive.
They say that Antiguans and Barbudans are asking only for accountability.