JOHN’S, Antigua, Jun 11 2016( Caribbean News Service (CNS). – Prime Minister Gaston Browne says he had assets in excess of EC$30 million before he came into office and dismissed suggestions that he had accepted bribes as much as EC$20,000 since coming heading the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) administration two years ago.
Browne, speaking in Parliament during debate on legislation to abolish the personal income tax, said apart from at least one other politicians “there is no other parliamentarian, no other minister who would have come into government with the wealth I brought in 2014”.
Browne told legislators that he had declared more than EC$30 million to the Integrity Commission when he took up his position as prime minister.
“In 2014 in my declaration to the Integrity Commission that I declared in excess of EEC$30 million in assets…that were acquired without the assistance of the government, without doing any deals with the government”.
He said a significant portion of his wealth included real estate assets throughout the island, heavy equipment as well as trucks and his involvement in the rental of cars “for many years”.
He said he was now in the process of transferring most of his interests to his family members and since coming to office has acquired only one new property.
“The only property that has been acquired is a parcel of land at Jolly Harbour …it is an investment that I do not have to disclose to the public, it is a company in which I am a shareholder,” he said noting that a loan had been acquired to make the purchase.
“That loan is being paid on a monthly basis,” he said, adding “what I have done …I have transferred some of those assets to my 27 year old son to assist in establishing him as an independent businessman…”
Prime Minister Browne said that his son is not part of his household, does not live with him and is involved in real estate and property management among other business activities.
“I expect my son…who has a good start to make multiples of that and if he does not he would have failed,” Browne said, adding “this is what I wish for all Antiguans and Barbudans”.
He accused many members of the main opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) of having entered office poor and left rich and that he has turned down many bribes from business people since becoming prime minister.
“They have offered me similar inducements. They have brought their little brown envelopes with their 10,000 and 20,000 dollars and I have said to them I have more money than you, so I don’t want your 20, 000,” he added.