The Minister of Economic Development, Guy Joseph has been responding to reports that he has been implicated in an investigation into alleged corruption associated with the Hewanorra International Airport Redevelopment Project.
Joseph told journalists attending the weekly pre-cabinet press briefing on Monday that he is not worried and he welcomes reports of an investigation.
The investigation was launched by the previous Labour Party government of then Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony. According to published reports, the Attorney General in St Lucia sought US government assistance as part of an investigation into suspected bribery surrounding the $157 million airport redevelopment project.
The reports allege that during key points in the project bidding process, there was heightened telephone activity between Guy Joseph, then Minister of Communications and Works, Sean Matthew, then SLASPA General Manager and Antonio Assenza, the Head of construction firm – Asphalt and Mining Limited.
The contract to redevelop the project was eventually awarded to Asphalt and Mining. It was ultimately scrapped due to a lack of financing.
“As part of its winning bid, A&M agreed to provide US$23,550,000 interest-free counterpart financing for the project. Saint Lucia planned to obtain the rest of the financing for the project from Deutsche Bank. In July 2012, Deutsche Bank notified SLASPA that they could not move forward with their portion of the financing, in part because Assenza failed the bark’s due diligence requirements,” Caribbean News Now reports.
Miinster Jospeh was asked by journalists about the high volume of calls he allegedly made to Antonio Assenza while Asphalt and Mining was bidding for a contract under his Ministry.
“Asphalt and Mining and the airport project was one project. Asphalt and Mining was doing several road projects within the Ministry of Communications and Works of which I was the Minister. So to make phone calls, all my phone calls records are there. I have said it before and you can see all the people that I call. I didn’t know it was illegal to call people,” Joseph stated.
Guy Joseph suggested that he was being judged by a different standard compared to other government ministers and suggested that the phone records of all other government ministers be made public.
“So if it is highly improbable for Ministers to speak to anybody else, then you know what we should request that, the every Minister’s phone records be brought and let’s see how many Ministers have been speaking to how many people because there cannot be one measurement for Guy Joseph and a different measurement for anybody else,” Joseph added.
Joseph suggested that the investigation into the airport redevelopment project was part of a witch-hunt by the Labour Party government to ensure he would not run for elections.
“I have been informed that when they did not get anything on me they launched an investigation under MLAT (Money Laundering and Anti-terrorism Act). That is how far I understood that they went to undermine me and to see to it that I don’t run elections. So as to if there is an investigation or whether there is an investigation that will be revealed in time because the information that must come out will come out but I’m not worried. I’m not worried. If there’s an investigation, I welcome the investigation,” Joseph added.