“Comments on Virdee Matters Arising” by Charles Wilkin QC
I am not in a position to say whether the allegations made by Virdee against our PM are true or not. Nor did the U.K. Court make that judgment. We will no doubt hear further if and when Virdee is tried on the charges of bribery. We will then hear what other evidence if any the U.K. Police have in this matter. Until then we have to allow the PM the presumption of innocence. But his blanket denial is not sufficient. Whether Virdee lied or not his allegations create potentially adverse implications for the name of our country. Therefore the country deserves full disclosure on all connections between Virdee and officials here past and present. We need full information about any investment he made or sought to make and who in this and/or the former government he dealt with. What was the business he sought to do and what was his proposal? How did the government respond? Who did he meet with, where and when? These are but some of the many questions that should be answered.
Regarding citizenship we need to know if Virdee is an economic citizen and if so when he became one. What was his qualifying investment? Did he get a diplomatic passport like so many other questionable characters? We need assurances that his application was properly processed without short cuts or favoritism. We need to know how long it took him to get his citizenship and how that compared with the time taken by applicants who had no strings to pull.
And with his new mood of transparency Dr. Douglas might not mind if the Government releases the names of all the economic citizens whom he gave diplomatic passports so that we can see if there are any other Virdees lurking in our future. Same can be done with all the Iranians whom Dr. Douglas gave citizenship to under the CBI and put the programme in jeopardy.
We have to take seriously as well the suggestions by Virdee that an Antiguan Minister, was offering to pilot his project through St. Kitts and was asking for a cut. The Minister himself was caught in the sting and appeared to be offering his services in relation to Virdee’s project in St. Kitts. The people of St. Kitts and Nevis need to know what emboldened a Minister of a foreign Government to suggest he could make things happen here. How dare him. The Prime Minister needs to say whether, like his predecessor Dr. Douglas, he too had a relationship with Michael which could have made Michael believe that he is Santa Claus in St. Kitts as he is in Antigua.
The National Assembly has just passed a Freedom of Information Act. This is the perfect situation for the Prime Minister to put the Act voluntarily into immediate practice if he wants to clear his name. It is the perfect opportunity if they have nothing to hide for the government to show its commitment to transparency and open government which its parliamentary representatives spoke so glowingly about a few short weeks ago.
The transcripts set out in the UK judgment show that Mr. Virdee was very concerned about election campaign contributions. This should be a wake up call for the need for campaign finance rules to require disclosure of donations to campaigns. Whether his allegations against the politicians are true Mr. Virdee clearly thinks that he can influence elections. He is not alone in this regard. People like him who have politicians in their pocket make a mockery of our electoral system and our democracy. The continued failure of politicians on all sides to address this issue leaves them open to suspicion that they like it the way it is. So do their benefactors and rulers. But ultimately it is the taxpayer who pays the donors back for their contributions not the political parties nor the politicians.