Country reacts to news of corruption, theft allegations
Update 2.15pm: Premier McKeeva Bush has been released on police bail following a number of interviews with Royal Cayman Islands Police Financial Crime Unit officers. Mr. Bush was placed on police bail until early February 2013, to allow further investigations to take place both here and abroad in connection with the allegations made against him. Police can confirm that a considerable amount of property, including computer equipment, was seized during searches yesterday. The investigations involving Mr. Bush are still very active and the RCIPS will be pursuing all lines of enquiry in consultation with the legal department. The second man who was arrested yesterday in connection with the ongoing investigation is now back in police custody and is being questioned.
Update, 10am: Premier McKeeva Bush returned to police custody for further questioning Wednesday morning. Mr. Bush was released Tuesday on police bail, with the condition that he return to face further questioning Wednesday. The 2nd man arrested yesterday – identified as local businessman Suresh Prasad – who was released on police bail Tuesday night, is due to return for further questioning as well.
Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush was arrested Tuesday morning on suspicion of corruption and theft offences.
At press time, he had not been charged with any crimes.
According to a statement released Tuesday by the RCIPS: “The premier of the Cayman Islands, McKeeva Bush, 57, has been arrested and is currently detained in police custody in connection with a number of ongoing police investigations.
“Officers from the RCIPS Financial Crime Unit arrested Mr. Bush at around 7am at his home in West Bay.
Mr. Bush has been arrested on suspicion of theft in connection with financial irregularities relating to the alleged misuse of a Government credit card, and breach of trust, abuse of office and conflict of interest, contrary to Section 13, Section 17 and Section 19 of the Anti-Corruption Law 2008, in connection with the alleged importation of explosive substances without valid permits on or before February 2012.
“It would be inappropriate for the RCIPS to make any further comment in relation to these matters at this time. Further updates will be made available in due course.”
News of the arrest, long-rumoured in the wake a various criminal investigations proceeding against Premier Bush, still left many members of Cayman society stunned. Police had blocked off the street outside the premier’s residence in West Bay Tuesday morning, letting only certain family members through.
Officers spent most of the morning searching the home, according to reports from the scene. Mr. Bush’s wife, Kerry, and a number of family members had gathered inside the home. The Caymanian Compass did contact Mr. Bush’s family members for comment, but had received nothing by press time Tuesday.
By noon, Speaker of the House Mary Lawrence was among those waiting outside Mr. Bush’s home for police to wrap up their investigations. A number of vehicles drove by the location, filled with curiosity-seekers.
One of Mr. Bush’s relatives, stopped temporarily at the police cordon: “He’s given his life to this country!” she said. Meanwhile, leaders of the ruling United Democratic Party huddled with Governor Duncan Taylor and met in caucus as well for most of the morning. By press time there had been no indication of what action UDP members might take in the wake of Mr. Bush’s arrest.
“We, the government fully understand the gravity of this matter,” a UDP statement read. “We confirm that caucus is presently convened and further statements will be issued in due course.”
A UDP source who spoke to the Caymanian Compass on condition of anonymity expressed surprise at the allegations of misuse of a government credit card, which they noted had been “cleared up” by Premier Bush some time ago.
Allegations in relation to the explosives importation had been noted among three separate criminal investigations linked to the premier by Governor Duncan Taylor and Police Commissioner David Baines in April of this year.
According to an earlier statement released on the explosives matter: “Allegations have been made in relation to the involvement of the premier in the periphery of a recent incident where a quantity of explosives were imported to the Cayman Islands without the necessary permit.” Local business Midland Acres was fined a total of $1,300 after its director, Suresh Prasad, entered pleas of guilty on the quarrying company’s behalf to four charges of importing explosives without a permit. At the conclusion of matters, charges against Mr. Prasad personally were left “on file”.
Mr. Bush’s name did not come up in connection with the case that was before the court. Police did not specify anything further in earlier statements about the dynamite importation case.
Section 13 of the Anti-Corruption Law, 2008, states: “A public officer or a member of the Legislative Assembly who, in connection with the duties of his office, commits fraud or a breach of trust is liable to conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term of five years, whether or not the fraud or breach of trust would be an offence if it were committed in relation to a private person.”
Section 17 of the law states under subsection 1: “A public officer or a member of the Legislative Assembly who does or directs to be done, in abuse of the authority of his office, any arbitrary act prejudicial to the rights of another commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term of two years.”
Under subsection 2: “If the act…is done or directed to be done for purposes of a loan, reward, advantage or other benefit, such person commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term of three years.”
Section 19 of the law deals with conflicts of interest and the declaration rules for such conflicts. In subsection 3 it states: “A public officer or member of the Legislative Assembly who fails to disclose an interest….and who votes or otherwise takes part in proceeding of the government entity relating to such interest commits an offence and is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term of five years.”