Bush charged, declares innocence

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Former Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush wasted no time declaring his innocence Wednesday after police charged him on 11 counts, including corruption-related offences and theft.

Mr. Bush, 58, was charged with two counts of misconduct in a public office, four counts of breach of trust by a member of the Legislative Assembly, contrary to the Anti-Corruption Law, and five counts of theft.

The former head of government and longest-serving current member of the Legislative Assembly has been bailed to appear in court on 12 April.

Less than three hours after police announced publicly the filing of charges, Mr. Bush and the United Democratic Party, which he leads, issued a statement in which the West Bay lawmaker proclaimed his innocence.

He said he had expected charges to be brought against him before the upcoming general election, slated for 22 May, and added that he expected further charges to be laid against him as part of the “continuing effort” to influence his re-election campaign.

”I have done nothing illegal, and will defend every one of these charges,” Mr. Bush said. “As I’ve stated since this campaign against me began over three years ago, I am innocent. I will continue as the leader of the United Democratic Party, with its full support. These charges will not deter my faith and dedication to all the people of Cayman and to the United Democratic Party.”

Mr. Bush had been released on police bail overnight Tuesday after undergoing a day of questioning and returned to the Financial Crime Unit office at Elizabethan Square on Wednesday with his lawyer, Michael Alberga, after first attending George Town police station.

Police sent details of interviews with Mr. Bush to Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards, who advised on whether to lay charges against the former premier. Mr. Bush’s legal team includes Mr. Alberga of Travers Thorp Alberga, Jeffery Cox, a United Kingdom QC who appeared in the EuroBank case, and K.D. Knight, a QC from Jamaica.

The charges come just a week before the 27 March nomination day in the run-up to the May general election.

Mr. Bush was arrested at his West Bay home on 11 December on corruption-related offences and theft and his home and office were searched by police, who confiscated a number of items.

He was initially bailed to report to police in February, at which time he was re-bailed to report back on 19 March.

Businessman Suresh Prasad, who was arrested on the same day as Mr. Bush as part of a police investigation into the importation of explosives, faced further police questioning Tuesday when he also reported back to police in line with his bail conditions. He was re-bailed to report back to police in early April.

Mr. Prasad had not been charged with any crime by press time Wednesday.

When Mr. Bush was bailed in February, police said at the time that they were carrying out further investigations in a number of foreign jurisdictions, including locations in Europe, the United States and Asia.

Mr. Bush, who was first elected to the legislature in 1984 and became the Cayman Islands first premier in 2009, was ousted as head of government a few days after his arrest in December when the majority of lawmakers, including five members of his own nine-member government, backed a vote of no confidence in the United Democratic Party government. He remains an elected representative for West Bay.

The current interim government is made up of the five government members who backed the no-confidence motion. He was replaced as premier by his former deputy Juliana O’Connor-Connolly.

Mr. Bush, who is expected to run as a West Bay candidate again in the upcoming election, can still run and be elected to political office while facing these charges.

Under the constitution, only candidates who have received a prison sentence of 12 months or more, even if the sentence has been suspended, or who have been convicted of an offence involving dishonesty, are barred from running for election.

The United Democratic Party vowed to stand behind its leader.

Party chairman Tessa Bodden described the charges against Mr. Bush as part of a campaign to “embarrass” him, his family, the UDP and its supporters. “Our country has faced adversities before and like before, the UDP will stand united with the people of the Cayman Islands to face these challenges,” she said.

The UDP General Assembly, scheduled to take place Saturday, will go ahead as planned, according to the news release.

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