Permanent Secretary for the Office of the Prime Minister which is inclusive of the passport office has responded to online allegations which place at least one Antiguan and Barbudan Minister in possession of blank valid Antiguan and Barbudan passports.
Two days ago, an online article was posted by “WantedSA” entitled “BLANK CARIBBEAN PASSPORTS IN BULK REMAIN A PROBLEM FOR COMPLIANCE”.
The article made a daring allegation that former Minister of Tourism & Investment, Asot Michael, after being detained in London for questioning about allegations that he accepted bribes from a UK national, was found with a number of blank valid Antigua and Barbuda passports.
The news brings unwanted attention to the country’s passport as it complicate the tasks of compliance officers charged with identifying, and rejecting, bogus methods of identification at account opening, not to omit increasing serious terrorist financing threats.
During an interview with state media the Ministry’s PS Jocelyn Greene, completely dismissed the allegations.
Greene said that there is no such thing as a blank yet valid passport. She says a passport is only valid unless it is personalized and is given validation in terms of issuance and expirations dates.
When asked of the possibility of fraudulent information being inserted into a blank passport to be used by the fraudster, the Permanent Secretary says it would still not be valid in Antigua and Barbuda’s jurisdiction.
Greene said while she was concerned after hearing of the article, she did not take it seriously because she knows that the allegations was highly unlikely. She noted that there is strict security process after the book is printed and brought into the country to when it is issued to eligible individuals.
She assured Antigua and Barbuda’s international partner’s that the issuance of the nation’s passport is without corruption.
Meantime, Attorney-at-Law Anthony Astaphan QC also dismissed the allegations and further expressed his disappointment in the opposition the United Progressive Party (UPP) for posting the allegations on social media.