North Side legislator Ezzard Miller is calling on Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor to launch a commission of inquiry into allegations of corruption surrounding Premier McKeeva Bush.
The Caymanian Compass first reported in June that opposition political party members claimed Premier Bush was the subject of a police investigation involving allegations of “financial irregularities”. Mr. Bush has previously denied allegations of any wrong-doing.
Mr. Miller said he had concerns about a copy of a letter in his possession, allegedly sent by Mr. Bush to Atlanta, Georgia-based developer Stanley Thomas in October 2004. Mr. Miller said the letter asked for $350,000 to be sent as a balance of payment to a Windsor Development company bank account.
The Windsor Development company is a real estate firm in which – at the time the 2004 letter was allegedly sent – Mr. Bush’s wife, Kerry, was the sole shareholder, according to documentation from the Companies Registry. Mr. Miller said Friday that Mr. Bush’s register of interest form filed with the Legislative Assembly office indicated he was a signatory for the company’s bank account at the time the letter was allegedly sent to Mr. Thomas.
When asked Friday about the October 2004 letter to Mr. Thomas, Mr. Bush said he would make a statement regarding the letter in due course. “They had better wait to see if indeed I wrote the letter and what happened,” Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Miller announced his call for the inquiry in a news briefing Friday. He held the news conference with Leader of the Opposition Alden McLaughlin, who said the People’s Progressive Movement party supported Mr. Miller’s efforts to ask for an inquiry.
“I have not found anything in my investigation and supporting documentation that seems to be legitimate justification for the demand for payment in the letter from Mr. Bush, so on that basis, we’ve asked the governor to call a commission of inquiry,” Mr. Miller said. “Up to this point in time, I have not been and I believe the opposition has not been officially informed that there is an investigation into this matter ongoing by the police.”
Premier Bush responded to the call for a commission of inquiry by calling it a “red herring” created by Mr. Miller and the PPM to draw attention away from projects such as the Shetty hospital and port developments.
“I am not worried about any commission of inquiry. I have not done anything illegal in any shape or form,” Premier Bush said.
Mr. Miller and Mr. McLaughlin said they understood the letter referred to a rezoning application to the Central Planning Authority in October 2002. The application sought to rezone 273.8 acres of land between West Bay Road and North Sound from a low density residential zone to a hotel/tourism zone. Cabinet approved the rezoning application in July 2004 and it was passed in a motion in the Legislative Assembly that month.
The October 2004 letter does not mention a specific property, but Mr. Miller said: “The only evidence I can find of any rezoning related to any property which Stan Thomas owned or came into possession of around this period of time is that specific rezoning.”
Mr. Miller said he did not think there was any reason why a commission of inquiry could not be held at the same time as a police investigation into the same matter. “In fact, they should complement each other,” he said.
Leader of the Opposition Mr. McLaughlin called on the Premier to give an explanation about the letter. “At a minimum, this requires a careful explanation… If this is all made up, if this is a fabrication, if the letter is not true, if it is a real estate bill, he needs to tell us,” he said.
During a 25 June political rally, Mr. Bush referred to a “real estate bill” in connection with an unspecified investigation that he said opposition party members were bringing against him. It was later learned that Governor Taylor had called for the probe after the October 2004 letter was referred to him by the Cayman Islands judiciary.
The Governor’s Office confirmed that Mr. Taylor had received a request from Mr. Miller to establish a Commission of Inquiry into alleged financial irregularities concerning Premier Bush on Thursday. “The governor is considering this request and will respond to Mr. Miller as soon as he can,” said Steve Moore, head of the Governor’s Office.
Last month, the governor confirmed that a police investigation was under way into alleged financial irregularities, but would not state who was involved. The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service gave a similar response.
“I find the official reluctance to acknowledge the existence of this investigation puzzling,” said Mr. McLaughlin at Friday’s briefing. “The premier has referred to it. We have been told other than officially of the existence of it, but the continued reluctance of His Excellency the Governor and commissioner of police to acknowledge this is something I have not been able to figure out myself.”
Mr. Bush said he believed the call for the inquiry was being made by Mr. Miller – and not the Opposition Leader Mr. McLaughlin – because there had been a call during a Finance Committee meeting in the Legislative Assembly last month for a commission of inquiry into the procurement of contracts for John Gray and Clifton Hunter high schools and related projects that occurred while Mr. McLaughlin was minister of education.
“All that is going on is an attempt to stop the government from getting our projects done… I am not going to let this derail my responsibility to get the economy back on track and getting the government finances in good shape,” Mr. Bush said.
“I have been down this road before and I have found if your hands are clean and your heart is pure, you have nothing to worry about. I am not concerned one bit, except that my family is being humiliated a lot and Ezzard Miller is part and principal of this attempt,” the premier said.
He added that while a police investigation was being carried out, “I think things should be left unsaid”.
Asked when he would comment directly on the letter that has prompted Mr. Miller to ask the governor for a commission of inquiry, Mr. Bush responded: “When I am ready and the time is right. I have nothing to hide.”
In his letter to the governor asking for an inquiry, Mr. Miller said there was no record of Windsor Development being involved in the planning application process for the development.
He called on the governor to publish the findings of a commission of inquiry into the matter “by having the Deputy Governor [Donovan Ebanks] lay the report on the table of the Legislative Assembly”.
The North Side MLA has also called for the Anti-Corruption Commission, chaired by police commissioner David Baines, to investigate the matter.