Turks corruption probe stalls over money

House committee says UK should pay

The special investigator conducting
a political corruption probe in the Turks and Caicos
Islands since last year has told the UK House of Commons that her
office’s efforts are failing due to a lack of funding.

The UK house Foreign Affairs Committee
recommended last week that the British government fund anti-corruption investigations
in the Turks and Caicos.

However, the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office has so far refused to do so.

The house committee noted that it
had been almost a year since Sir Robin Auld completed his enquiry into
allegations of widespread corruption in the TCI. The enquiry sustained many of
the allegations and uncovered major concerns about misappropriated government
funds. The probe led to the ouster of former TCI Premier Michael Misick.

However, since November of last
year, Special Prosecutor Helen Garlick has continued to express anxiety about
whether there would be appropriate funding for the on-going investigation.

Foreign office Under Secretary of
State Chris Bryant has maintained that the UK
taxpayers should not have to fund the prosecution team since “the former TCI
government was responsible for the present parlous economic state of the Islands.”

The Foreign Affairs Committee said
that argument was flawed.

“It ignores the extent to which the
UK government was also
culpable in allowing a culture of systemic corruption to develop in TCI
unchecked, thereby neglecting its duty of responsible oversight of the Overseas Territories,” read a report issued by
the committee last week.

Moreover, on-going delays in the
corruption investigation were likely to “risk the UK government’s credibility in its
use of reserved powers” the committee report stated.

Other reasons the house report
listed as to why the UK
should pay for the Turks and Caicos corruption investigation were that the
small territory would likely have to cut services such as health and public
safety to pay for the probe.

“It is unreasonable to expect the
small population of the TCI to bear the financial burden, through debt or
taxation, for funding the investigation and prosecution of corruption for which
they were not responsible.”

The report recommended that the UK government
provide the funding for running the investigation as well as operating an established
Integrity Commission in the Turks and Caicos for three years initially.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office
has so far rejected this argument outright.

“It is for territory governments to
fund commissions of inquiry and criminal investigations within their
jurisdiction,” UK Foreign Secretary David Milibrand said in January.

The Cayman Islands was required to
pay close to CI$10 million over the past two years for an investigation into
alleged misconduct and corruption within its local police force. That
investigation was headed, at one time, by a group of police officers from the
UK Metropolitan Police force.

Previous motions before the
Legislative Assembly that have asked the Cayman government to sue the UK to recover
part of all of those funds failed for lack of support.