Libel, slander alleged in writ
Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin filed a lawsuit Thursday against the territory’s opposition leader and longtime political rival McKeeva Bush, claiming Mr. Bush attempted to “destroy the political and legal career” of Mr. McLaughlin last month by way of various public statements.
The statements revolved around a private members’ motion filed in the Legislative Assembly on April 14 by Mr. Bush. The writ states that the motion alleged the opposition leader possessed “irrefutable evidence” that Mr. McLaughlin and a number of other individuals conspired in “an undemocratic plan to remove the then-constitutionally elected premier [referring to Mr. Bush]” from public office.
Mr. Bush commented on the writ Friday: “In due course, my lawyers will respond to Alden. However, I’m confident in the matter and, if he wants a trial, that, I intend to see, with God’s help, he gets!”
The motion was read out to members of the local media, who are identified by name in the lawsuit, during a press conference hosted by Mr. Bush at the Legislative Assembly building in downtown George Town. In addition to reading the motion, Mr. Bush made other comments to the press concerning the alleged plot to remove him from office that Mr. McLaughlin claims were “false and malicious.” Mr. McLaughlin claims in the writ that Mr. Bush intended these statements to reach as wide an audience as possible and used the media to accomplish that goal.
“At the said press conference, [Mr. Bush] was asked to clarify what ‘irrefutable evidence’ he possessed,” Mr. McLaughlin’s lawsuit states. “[Mr. Bush] falsely and maliciously stated that he had written correspondence between the various parties including [Mr. McLaughlin] thereby asserting that [Mr. McLaughlin] was party to correspondence which proved his involvement in the undemocratic plan to remove [Mr. Bush] from office.”
Mr. Bush faced various criminal investigations during his time as premier between 2010-2012 and was removed from government following a “no confidence” vote of the Legislative Assembly in December 2012. He faced a criminal trial last year on corruption and misconduct charges related to the use of a government-issued credit card to withdraw nearly US$50,000 at casinos in the U.S. and the Bahamas; cash that was used, in at least some instances, to gamble at slot machines.
He was acquitted by unanimous jury verdict in October 2014.
During the trial, a series of emails were read out by Mr. Bush’s defense team, which lawyers suggested showed a conspiracy to “bring down” the former premier.
Premier McLaughlin stated in his writ that both the private members’ motion filed by Mr. Bush and subsequent statements published by the local and international media essentially accused Mr. McLaughlin of committing a number of criminal offenses. The lawsuit listed, among those potential allegations that Mr. McLaughlin had been accused of, offenses contrary to section 17 of the Anti-Corruption Law [abuse of office], misconduct in a public office and criminal conspiracy offenses under the Cayman Islands Penal Code.
Mr. McLaughlin claimed at least six local news media outlets and a number of other international online publications and “blogs” repeated the defamatory allegations made by Mr. Bush between April 14 and April 24, 2015. No media outlets were listed as defendants in the writ filed Thursday.
“[Mr. Bush] will have known perfectly well, and it is the case that the above allegations against a public figure, in this case the premier of the Cayman Islands, would be highly destructive of public confidence and likely to destroy the political and legal career of [Mr. McLaughlin],” the lawsuit states, adding that Mr. Bush gave Mr. McLaughlin no chance prior to the press conference on April 14 to refute or defend himself against the accusations.
“[Mr. McLaughlin] will ask the court to infer that this was because [Mr. Bush] believed or suspected the allegations against [Mr. McLaughlin] were completely untrue.
“[Mr. Bush] published the words complained of knowing that they were false, or recklessly not caring whether they were true or false, in the hope or expectation that the prospect of personal and political gain to him outweighed the risk of paying any or … substantial damages to [Mr. McLaughlin].”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified general, aggravated and exemplary damages for “libel [published or broadcast defamation] and/or slander [spoken defamation],” as well as for “malicious falsehood.”
The writ also seeks a court injunction against further repetition of the alleged defamatory remarks by Mr. Bush or “his servants or agents.”