Year in Review: Premier Bush under investigation

One of the biggest stories to come out in 2011 was actually almost seven years old when it came to light in June. 

That is when Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin revealed he had learned Premier McKeeva Bush had been the subject of a police investigation for more then a year. 

Mr. McLaughlin’s statement came the day after he and North Side MLA Ezzard Miller went to see Governor Duncan Taylor about the matter. At that time, Mr. Taylor only confirmed the existence of a police investigation, but wouldn’t name the subject of the investigation. 

Mr. Miller had already written to Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Commissioner David Baines asking for an investigation into the contents of an October 2004 letter that appeared to be from Premier McKeeva Bush to American real estate developer Stanley Thomas, who at one time owned more than 273 acres of raw land along the Seven Mile Beach corridor. At the time of the letter, Mr. Bush was leader of government business and a member of Cabinet. 

In the letter, Mr. Bush tells Mr. Thomas that he has “ensured that all the proposed re-zoning issues have been agreed and approved by Cabinet” and asks him to wire transfer the “remaining balance of US$350,000” to the bank account of Windsor Development, a real estate company owned by Mr. Bush’s wife, Kerry.  

The same day Mr. McLaughlin issued his statement, Premier Bush spoke at a public rally about an investigation, which he blamed on the Opposition. He denied any wrong-doing and promised that “the truth would prevail”. He also made reference to a “real estate bill”. 

In the days and weeks that followed, other details of the matter started to emerge, including that the investigation was initiated by Governor Taylor in February 2010 – a month after he arrived in the Cayman Islands – after someone in the judiciary provided him with a copy of Mr. Bush’s letter to Mr. Thomas. That letter had been unearthed during a separate civil court proceeding initiated by Mr. Thomas involving someone else. 

In July, Mr. Miller requested the governor convene a commission of inquiry into the matter after discovering that Cabinet approved the rezoning of Mr. Thomas’ land from low density residential to hotel/tourism in July 2004. The application to rezone the land was originally made by the architecture firm Chalmers Gibbs in October 2002, more than a year before Mr. Thomas bought the land.  

In calling for the inquiry, Mr. Miller said he could find no record of Windsor Development being involved in the planning application for the development of Mr. Thomas’s property. He said he could find not any documentation that supported “legitimate demand for payment in the letter from Mr. Bush”. 

The Governor’s Office acknowledged Mr. Miller’s inquiry request and stated that it would consider it. However, the following week Governor Taylor said he would not initiate a commission of inquiry into the matter. 

“The matter is already the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service,” he said. “In light of this, I do not see the case for considering a commission of inquiry.” 

Mr. Miller and Mr. McLaughlin pushed for an explanation of the matter, and Mr. Bush only said he would make one in “due course”.  

On several occasions after that, Mr. Miller called for Mr. Bush to vacate the office of premier during the police investigation, a request Mr. Bush rejected. In a non-scientific online poll conducted on in September, only 28.5 per cent of respondents thought an elected official who was being investigated for, or was rumoured to have committed, a crime should step down. 

Through mid-December, neither Mr. Bush nor the police had issued any further statements about the matter. 

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