Anti-Money Laundering Specialist Says UPP Willfully Blind in Taking Donations
BRADES – Peter A Queeley, an anti- money laundering specialist said the acknowledgement by the United Progressive Party (UPP) that they received donations from a former UN official now charged with bribery, highlights the need for election campaign reforms in OECS Member States including Montserrat.
The current Antigua & Barbuda government on Wednesday distanced themselves from the former UN official and former Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda Dr John Ashe who was arrested in the United Stated on charges in a bribery scheme that involved sources from other countries.
In a statement they said their government “replaced Mr Ashe when it was elected to office in 2014. Senior officials of the former Spencer government, including Spencer himself are identified in the complaint. The complaint against Ashe, who is a resident of the United States, also includes fraudulent tax returns in the US.”
On Thursday, the United Progressive Party (UPP) acknowledged receiving monies from Opposition leader Baldwin Spencer, that had been donated by former president of the United Nations General Assembly, Dr John Ashe, but “it never knowingly accepted such as the proceeds of any crime.”
Queeley, who is also a financial analyst said “the statement by the United Progressive Party (UPP) represents a poor attempt to justify the actions of the former Antigua and Barbuda UPP Administration. The UPP leadership and in particularly former Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer would have been aware of the salary paid by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda and stipends being paid by the United Nations to former Ambassador Dr John Ashe.
“Therefore, for the UPP to state it never knowingly accepted the donations as the proceeds of any crime, is tantamount to an acknowledgement of what is known as willful blindness in anti-money laundering theory and practice. The UPP leadership including Baldwin Spencer had an obligation to ascertain from Dr John Ashe, the ultimate source of funding for the monies being donated as such monies would have been clearly over and above the income level of Dr John Ashe.”
He explained that political parties, similar to financial institutions and other designated financial institutions and professional intermediaries have the responsibility and obligation to ascertain the ultimate source of funds. “This is especially important given the fact that it is well known and accepted that campaign financing is one way how criminals to influence and corrupt political officials in small island states.”
“I have noted that most countries of the OECS have moved to enact laws relating to integrity in public life. However, it is now glaringly obvious that there needs to be more disclosure and transparency in the electoral process in OECS Countries.” The time has come, Queeley added, “for OECS countries including Montserrat to serious consider enacting laws governing and regulating election campaign financing.”