Former Turks premier says he’s been targeted
The on-going saga involving the arrest and potential return of former Turks and Caicos Islands Premier Michael Misick to the British Overseas Territory looks likely to play out for some time.
Mr. Misick, wanted for questioning in connection with a corruption investigation that has led to criminal charges against more than a dozen people in the Turks and Caicos Islands, has made numerous claims that he wished to return home and that there was no reason for police to issue an extradition request to Brazil where the former Turks premier is imprisoned.
In attempts to communicate with various sources in the Turks and Caicos Islands press, Mr. Misick has written letters from his prison cell claiming – among other things – that Britain is seeking to take down leaders of overseas territories who “seek independence”.
In one letter, dated 14 January, he referenced the recent arrest of former Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush: “The British should not be allowed to continue to act with impunity against leaders in colonies that seek independence or leaders that want to govern their country. It seems like the British new way of getting rid of these leaders is accusing them of corruption. There is no accident that was has happen [sic] to me is now happening to the former Premier of the Cayman Islands, Hon. McKeeva Bush. I am convienced [sic] that the British has [sic] a plan to systematically bring down or bring into line all the leaders of these remaining colonies.”
The Caymanian Compass contacted Mr. Bush seeking comment on the former Turks premier’s statements comparing the two situations. The newspaper received no response by press time.
Mr. Misick also said in the letter that, after six weeks in jail, he considered himself a “political prisoner” and claimed that his human rights were being violated. No human rights groups, such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch, have supported the former premier’s claims.
Turks and Caicos Islands Attorney General Huw Shepheard issues a lengthy response last week to Mr. Misick’s letters.
“Mr. Misick is the subject of an extradition request made lawfully and properly, in accordance with the relevant treaty in place between the UK and Brazil, as extended to the Turks and Caicos Islands,” Mr. Shepheard said. “He is currently being held in accordance with the terms of this treaty, under a provisional warrant of arrest. Supporting documentation will be provided by the TCI authorities in January within the required 60 days from arrest.”
Mr. Shepheard said the decision whether or not to hold Mr. Misick in prison was solely a matter for the Brazilian authorities, although it was clear that their decision to do so indicated they felt Mr. Misick was a “high flight risk”, he said. Mr. Misick was also free to challenge any extradition request from Britain or the Brazilian government’s decision not to issue political asylum to the former Turks premier.
“Previous to his arrest in Brazil, Mr. Misick had over a year-long window of opportunity to return to the Turks and Caicos to face questions about his role in relation to the criminal investigation arising from the Sir Robin Auld Commission of Inquiry,” Mr. Shepheard said. That report found significant evidence of the potential for systemic corruption within Turks and has led to criminal charges against 13 people at last count.
“Unfortunately, despite assurances given on several occasions by Mr. Misick’s legal representatives that he would return to the Turks and Caicos Islands, he clearly never arrived,” Mr. Shepheard said. “His continued non-appearance and reluctance to come willingly to be questioned … is why an Interpol Red Notice was finally sought and granted.”
According to the United Kingdom foreign office, the British government has spent around US$19 million in grants over the past three fiscal years in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The grants covered some costs of the special investigations, civil recovery work and support the local police force. Additional costs paid by the UK government included more than US$1 million to set up “a suitable courtroom for the trials, which will be held as a result of the investigation”.
Turks and Caicos Islands Governor Ric Todd noted in April 2012 that the UK hoped to recover the costs of the ongoing investigation and other expenses.
“The [special prosecution team] has agreed a civil recovery order with one individual who has paid the sum of US$1.25 million,” Former Overseas Territories Minister Henry Bellingham said during a news conference in Turks last year. “The civil recovery team has made in excess of 40 separate recoveries of money and/or land. The monetary element is US$12, including payments already made, judgements obtained and still to be collected, and agreements to pay.
“More than 900 acres of land have also been returned to the Crown with a value of tens of millions of dollars,” he added.