Antigua St. john's - During the IHI investigation, several local businessmen provided evidence that assisted authorities in uncovering the depth of the scandal.
One of these local businessmen was then Senator Aziz Hadeed.
Hadeed detailed to investigators how he, amongst other businessmen, had been extorted by Asot Michael, and how Michael was different from then Prime Minister Lester Bird in his approach to receiving monies from business persons.
Below is the complete, unsigned interview that investigators held with Aziz Hadeed.
“When Did the Asot Michael/Lester Bird relationship start and why?
During the 1994 election, Asot Michael was the bag man for the ALP politicians and not the party treasury. After the election and the hurricane, Asot came back from London, he was a hungry lion looking for anything and Lester Bird says he adopted him, I don’t know why. Prior to this, the Birds were personal friends with his family but this was the first time there was business involvement.
What does Asot Michael have over Lester Bird?
Lester Bird had a weakness for life’s comforts, especially women. Asot Michael would pay for all the women and give everything that Lester Bird wanted. This then caused Lester Bird to facilitate the means for Asot Michael to get his own comforts in return. Lester Bird had compromised himself.
If Lester Bird wanted money, Asot Michael would find it. Asot would call me or someone else to say the Prime Minister wants EC$100,000. I would give it to him and then I told the Lester that I gave the money to Asot. Asot would get mad at me because he did not want Lester to know where the money came. Asot wanted the credit.
A couple of years ago, Asot called my brother and I to Lester Bird’s house and inside Lester opened a letter supposedly from the CIA saying that they have found out that we are bringing arms into Antigua from Syria for export to USA. Lester said to us that Trevor Thomas, the commander of defense forces had sent him the letter. I said to Lester that I will call CIA now. Lester did not do anything. I informed Trevor, the Commissioner of Police and Baldwin Spencer.
Asot did it to terrorize my family as Asot Michael always wants to extort me. All the time it was quid pro quo with Asot. I could not go to Lester Bird as Asot had Lester in the middle (compromised).
ASOT MICHAEL - BAG MAN FOR THE LABOUR PARTY
Lester Bird was different with me as there was never a quid pro quo. He would call me and ask for money, I was like a bank. However, Lester knew that he could not do it with me but he was involved in other deals where he would get this share.
In 1986 I resigned after the Royal Antigua hotel was built. I fought the Birds. He knows me. All the wealthy businessmen in Antigua got hit these ways.
I have several other extortion examples. In each case, Asot Michael would create a false tax liability, would cause a problem to stall release of import goods or regulatory approval until he got his money from me. Asot also used this approach to force me to contribute to his March 2004 election campaign.
I guess we have given around EC$15 million – EC$20 million (US$5.5M – US$7.5M) to Asot Michael. He said he offered to Asot to treat this amount as a loan and to pay an equivalent amount to community projects if Asot would agree to withdraw from politics. He refused.
I got tired of it and that is why I supported Baldwin, we cannot live this way here.”
Chronicles of Monte Friesner - Financial Crime Analyst
Contributed by Charles Fu Wang - Barrister Solicitor (UK)
Reposted with Credit to: CARIBANTIGUA