August 9, 2023
REAL News— The “Air Peace passengers” who were detained by the Department of Immigration are refusing to leave Antigua and Barbuda today, claiming that they paid an ambassador for the right to remain here, reliable sources allege.
Reportedly, between 12 and 17 West Africans (said to be Ghananians and Nigerians) were held by the authorities after they arrived here on Saturday evening, August 5.
Sources told REAL News their documents were not in order, since some were suspected of carrying fake Cameroonian passports and others had no valid visa.
It was reported on Tuesday morning that it was not known how they had even been allowed to board the flight.
Now, however, the group allegedly is explaining that, in addition to their ticket fare, they all “paid” for their stay here.
They claim that each person paid US$1,000 to an Antigua and Barbuda ambassador, with the understanding that they would be allowed to remain in this country – and subsequently decide whether they would continue their journey or settle here among relatives.
The sources allege that the Immigration Chief is refusing to accede to the West African visitors’ request, and so the matter has been escalated to several Cabinet ministers – none of whom, reportedly, wants to touch it, fearing that the fallout from the Antigua Airways debacle could be repeated.
Since it is not known whether these persons were “officially landed,” it is not clear whether they have a legitimate right to claim the 90 days’ stay that is accorded to African visitors.
But, usually, passengers who are not admitted by Immigration are sent back to their port of departure on the next flight.
Meanwhile, other sources have confirmed to REAL News that a closed meeting among several Government ministers and ambassadors; selected local business people; and several potential Nigerian investors took place at a hotel yesterday.
Reportedly, investments in cryptocurrency and the tourism sector were part of their discussion.
One government worker tells our Newsroom that “regularized travel” between Nigeria and Antigua appears to be the Browne Administration’s stated objective; however, getting Nigerian money into the local banking system is the underlying plan.
“If anything ‘funny’ happens with the investors,” he explains, “the money is already here. And like the Lazarenko account, it will become Government’s property,” he says.
There is still speculation that the Antigua Airways flight, last November 1 – as well as the three “copycat” flights that followed – brought cash into Antigua and Barbuda for laundering.