13th May, 2018
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (KYSS FM) – A British Criminial Court judgment has implicated St. Kitts and Nevis top government officials in a major UK bribery scandal.
According to a court judgment handed down by Lord Justice Holroyde and Mr. Justice Dingemans on Friday 11th May, 2018, a joint investigation by United Kingdom and German authorities in to VAT fraud allegedly carried out by real estate magnate, Peter Virdee and his business partner, Deiter Trutschler, secretly taped phone converstations disclosed during the trial stated that “In the course of their investigations (UK and German authorities) into the suspected VAT fraud, the German authorities had intercepted by telephone calls which caused them to suspect that Mr Virdee and Mr Trutschler may be involved in bribery and/or corruption in relation to the activities of PVE in the Caribbean.
“From about 2014 onwards, PVE was actively interested in entering into such contracts in the Caribbean states of Antigua and Barbuda (“Antigua”), and St Kitts and Nevis (“St Kitts”). A solar energy project was successfully concluded with Antigua. There is no evidence before the court that any contract was concluded with St Kitts. In discussions and negotiations in relation to the contract with Antigua, and a possible contract with St Kitts, Mr Virdee and Mr Trutschler had dealings with the Prime Minister of Antigua, the then Minister of Tourism, Energy and Development in Antigua, and the Prime Minister of St Kitts.
The judgement continued, “Between 31st January 2015 and 26th January 2017 Mr Virdee’s phone calls were being intercepted by the German authorities, who suspected him of involvement in a VAT carousel fraud. A warrant for Mr Virdee’s arrest on suspicion of involvement in that fraudulent activity was issued in Germany. The German authorities then issued a European Arrest Warrant. On 10th January 2017, Mr Virdee was arrested at Heathrow Airport pursuant to the latter warrant.
In one of the transcripts of the recorded telephone conversations between Virdee and his partner Truschler, Virdee told his partner, the present Prime Minister of St Kitts was visiting the UK, and, “I am taking him and his entourage out for dinner this evening and then we have an after party, so be ready for a big bill, but
in the interim he said (the Prime Minister) he would like a nice watch. I said ‘okay.’
And then he called me this morning and he said ‘Have you got my watch?’, I said ‘Oh I have got to pick your watch up’. So that is that. I spoke to him last Saturday, last Sunday at the airport hotel when he was in transit to Dubai and he said ‘Look, I am in favour of this, I will send my minister down’, I said ‘But you telling me you are in favour of it, it doesn’t help me, it really doesn’t help me in what you are telling me because, you know, I need action behind the words, and at the moment I am
not seeing any of that.’ And I had a very stiff conversation with him, to the point I said ‘Listen, you have got another 3, 3 and a half years. In 2 years’ time you are going to start your election campaign, you are going to come to me and say ‘Peter Virdee, I need some election funding’ and I am going to say ‘PM I can’t help you, if I have not earned anything from this country’ and then you are going to get upset and then we are going to fall out, so it is your call, how do you want to do this. …”*
What initially began as a VAT fraud investigation has now turned into a major bribery and corruption scandal.
Last year, Antigua and Barbuda’s then Minister of Toursim and Energy, Asot Michael, was detained in the UK by police for questioning in the Peter Virdee matter. He was later released, however hours after his arrest, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, fired Michael from his job as a senior minister.
Michael has since been relected in recent elections in that country and again holds a senior ministeri portfolio.
We will have more on this breaking story today as it develops.