We must exercise caution, says information minister | world news
ST JOHN’S (CMC):
The government of Antigua and Barbuda says it has received no official communication from Britain about two yachts moored here which international media say belong to Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire owner of English football club Chelsea.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas told reporters that Attorney General Steadroy Benjamin did not say whether he had received any official documents from London “in connection with this particular case”.
“While the Government of Antigua and Barbuda itself has not sanctioned any of these individuals. The whole point is that we acknowledge our role in this particular endeavor, securing our own jurisdiction from any potential postal liability that may arise with these issues. We have to be careful,” added Nicholas.
Abramovich is among several Russian billionaires identified by Europe and North America for sanctions because of their close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who sent troops to Ukraine in February.
Nicholas told reporters there were options open in St John’s if he received a request from London to ensure yachts were not allowed to breach the sanctions.
“Probably the most that can happen under the circumstances, and I speak with caution, is that if it gets to a point where if there is any obligation for the UK government to prosecute these boats, we can just ask to leave our borders… .
“In this case, we would have fulfilled our obligation depending on where we made these commitments,” Nichaolas said, reiterating that the attorney general had not yet received any documents from London on this subject.
British media said the two yachts, although registered with a company in the British Virgin Islands, could most likely be owned by Abramovich, who is also looking to sell his English football club.
They said London had asked St John’s for help in imposing sanctions on it, but the case was proving complicated, including the need for a court order to determine the owners of the yachts.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States, Sir Ronald Sanders, speaking on a British television program, said a letter from authorities in the British Virgin Islands stating that Abramovich was the beneficial owner of the company with which the yachts are registered.
“Well, the letter was not addressed to Antigua. The letter from the British Virgin Islands Financial Services Agency was sent to the UK National Crime Agency. It was not addressed to Antigua. was transmitted by the representative of the British High Commission in Antigua.
“But that’s all that’s been done. A letter has been sent. He did not say that we, the UK Government, place our full trust and credit in this letter, so we still do not have enough information to pursue this matter further.
“The ball is very firmly in Britain’s court,” the diplomat said.