Further to their walk-out from the Lower House on Thursday, March 16, St. Phillip South MP Sherfield Bowen says the United Progressive Party parliamentarians cannot support the Government’s proposal to amend the Port Authority Act.
An attorney by profession, Bowen says the Browne Administration could not simply hand the Opposition MPs the proposed stipulations this morning and expect them to engage in a debate shortly thereafter.
Bowen explains that he and his colleagues were given the Bill only minutes before the debate began, and he stresses that they needed time to thoroughly peruse the document beforehand.
According to the St. Phillip South representative, the proposed legislation seeks to amend the Act and give the Government the right to seize any ship that is stranded in the country’s waters; sell it after 10 days’ public notice; and keep the proceeds, regardless of any bank liens that might be attached to the vessel.
The proposed amendments are related to the disposal of a 269-foot luxury vessel, the Alfa Nero, purportedly owned by a Russian oligarch, that has been moored at the Antigua Yacht Club Marina in Falmouth Harbour since February 2022.
Bowen posits that the intention of the Administration to change the legislation to allow it to auction the ship shows the Browne regime is cash strapped.
Earlier this month, the Administration announced that the vessel had been prevented from leaving the port.
This was because an official search was needed to determine whether the ultimate beneficiary owner had been named on international sanction lists, following the Russian invasion of The Ukraine.
Bowen was questioned on the allegation that the Government is trying to sell the ship in an effort to counter the dwindling revenue from the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP), partially because of a crackdown by the United States authorities.
If the US government did, in fact, authorise the sale of the vessel, then the agreement should be included in the Bill, Bowen says.
He adds that any proposed proceeds from the ship should go to the Ukranian authorities, and any asset deemed to be in connection with the war should go to the Ukraine government and not the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.