Questions have been raised as to whether the recently cashiered ex-Minister of Tourism of Antigua & Barbuda, Asot Michael, could have avoided arrest and interrogation, when he arrived in the United Kingdom. Some have said that he had diplomatic immunity, but this statement is incorrect and misleading, and has no basis in international law.
We now know that he was questioned, on the orders of the National Crime Authority, due to an ongoing criminal investigation into allegations that bribes were paid to a government official in the East Caribbean, by a UK national, to secure business. Michael's PR statement, that his arrest was either routine, or an error, was intentional disinformation given to the media.
Michael also allegedly made graphic threats, to senior Antigua officials, after he was relieved by them of his ministerial portfolio, after news of his arrest was made public, and those threats may be actionable as assault under the laws of Antigua & Barbuda; we will be covering that in a subsequent article. His reinstatement as a minister, due to these actions, is doubtful.
On to the issues:
(1) Asot Michael, when Minister of Tourism, was NOT covered by diplomatic immunity, nor has he ever been, while holding that governmental position. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 specifically limits diplomatic immunity to serving, active duty diplomats, who are then formally certified by their foreign office as such, to a specific country or international body, who are duly accepted by the receiving country, and who perform a mission in that country. There is no blanket diplomatic immunity for ministers of any government in the Vienna protocols, which all United Nations members are obligated to observe, as UN treaty signatories.
(2) The other type of immunity, known as Head of State Immunity, is expressly limited to those senior individuals who represent the State in international relations. This means the Head of State, Head of Government, and the Foreign Minister. Any other official does not qualify; Readers who wish review the relevant material should consult the United Nations document Immunity of State Officials from Foreign Criminal Jurisdiction. here.
Chronicles of Monte Friesner - Senior Financial Crime Analyst
Contributed by Kenneth Rijock - Financial Crime Consultant