ST JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda: Weeks after investors in Allen Stanford’s businesses launched a boycott against Antigua and Barbuda, the government has announced how it plans to fight back.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Senator Joanne Massiah, announced that a public relations firm has been hired to counter the boycott and the government is exploring its legal options as well.
In her first announcement since being appointed by Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer to lead the country’s response to the Stanford Victims Coalition’s anti-Antigua campaign, she said that the New York-based Portfolio Marketing Group has been liaising with her office and the U.S.-based tourism office to craft an appropriate response.
While that firm comes up with a public relations plan, lawyers acting on behalf of Antigua and Barbuda are going into defense mode.
“We do not take lightly the threats of the self-styled Stanford Victims Coalition…We are in discussions with overseas counsel and intend to defend our country, our treasury, our citizens’ welfare and our patrimony.
“We cannot countenance the attack these persons have begun to wage on our country without first looking at other entities and organizations, including the United States’ regulatory authorities,” said Massiah.
The SVC launched its campaign in February, distributing 20,000 brochures which claimed that crime and corruption in the Antiguan government led to the financial devastation of people from 113 countries around the world who invested in the Stanford International Bank (SIB).
Since the launch by the U.S. group, the Latin American and European branches have announced their support for the move.
The Stanford investors have also filed a lawsuit seeking US$24 billion in compensation – three times the amount Stanford is alleged to have defrauded customers – from the government of Antigua and Barbuda. They have also filed another lawsuit, in which the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank is named, accusing it of unlawfully seizing Stanford’s Bank of Antigua after the businessman was charged and a run on the bank threatened its stability.
Attorney-at-law Peter Morgenstern of New York-firm Morgenstern & Blue has claimed that Antigua and Barbuda has refused service of the lawsuit.
However, Massiah said the allegation was false.
“To date there has not been any service of any legal process on the government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the diplomatic channel by any person or persons in this matter,” said Massiah.
The Antigua Labour Party (ALP) has proposed that it be part of the counter campaign.
“The ALP also proposes the creation of a bi-partisan Parliamentary sub-Committee, comprising members of the government and the opposition, wherein both sides of the parliamentary divide may engage those who seek to impoverish the state and its people,” it said in a statement issued after Massiah’s announcement.