by Carlena Knight
The Chief of Staff in the Office of the Prime Minister has sought to debunk claims that Prime Minister Gaston Browne is perpetrating corruption by renting one of his properties to a well-known investor.
The claim, by several pundits and opposition members, is in relation to an agreement for the rental of Browne’s Jolly Harbour home to Victor Singh, the investor behind the new Special Economic Zone (SEZ), Western Imperial.
The agreement additionally calls for a payment to the landlord, Browne, of US$20,000 as a security deposit, among other fees.
Since news broke about the tenancy agreement, the opposition has accused the Prime Minister of benefitting from private deals with Singh while conducting government business, claiming the timeline for the lease preceded the agreement for the SEZ.
Browne has denied the accusation several times.
The most recent claim was however made by one pundit Akaash Maharaj as he spoke about the matter on Observer media’s Big Issuesshow on Sunday.
Maharaj, who is the Ambassador-at-Large for the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC), explained that although there may very well be no instances of illegal activity, there should be laws in place to bar the PM from being able to conduct such private deals while in office, and thus avoid suspicion in the first place.
But, according to Lionel “Max” Hurst, who spoke a day later on the Observer AM show, no laws were broken, so there should therefore be no suspicion arising of any form of corruption.
“We can all agree that no laws were broken. There’s nothing in the Integrity and Public Life Act that was violated.