Alleges arrest designed to destroy him politically
Cayman Islands Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush has filed a lawsuit against Police Commissioner David Baines and former Governor Duncan Taylor alleging they conspired to depose him as Premier of the Cayman Islands.
In a writ of summons, filed with the Grand Court on Wednesday, attorneys acting for Mr. Bush claim the criminal investigation and charges laid against him were politically motivated.
Mr. Bush was ousted as Premier days after his arrest in December 2012, following a vote of no confidence in the Legislative Assembly. His party went on to lose the general election the following May. He was eventually found not guilty on six counts of misconduct in public office and five counts of breach of trust by a Member of the Legislative Assembly, connected to claims he withdrew almost $50,000 on his government credit card to gamble on casino slot machines in Florida, Las Vegas and the Bahamas.
The writ alleges there was no legitimate basis for Mr. Bush’s arrest and charge and that the investigation set out to destroy him politically.
“The prosecution of the plaintiff was malicious,” it states.
“The defendants wanted to bring him down politically and to have him arrested and charged prior to the 2013 general election, so that he would be forced to resign as Premier before the election and to ensure that he was not re-elected as Premier of the Cayman Islands.
“The defendants agreed to damage the plaintiff by manipulating and abusing the constitutional and legal system in the Cayman Islands to create the impression that there was a legitimate and reasonable basis for the charges brought against the plaintiff and by taking steps to ensure they resulted in his loss of office.”
The writ goes on to claim that the charges made Mr. Bush the subject of “public attention, contempt and ridicule” and resulted in irreparable damage to his reputation both locally and internationally.
It states that he would likely have been re-elected Premier if it were not for the criminal investigation and has suffered financial losses, including legal fees and expenses totaling $875,000 as a result.
The attorney general is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, a requirement for any civil proceedings against the Crown.
Mr. Bush has never sought to deny that he used his government credit card to withdraw cash in casinos.
His defense in the criminal trial, and the basis for the civil litigation, rely on evidence that there was no policy at the time against ministers using their credit cards for personal expenses, providing they paid it back.
The writ alleges that police failed to secure accurate witness statements that would have revealed the “absence of a case” against Mr. Bush.
It states that neither the commissioner nor the governor honestly believed the allegations against Mr. Bush had any merit and suggests police resources were devoted to a “fishing expedition” to find a plausible criminal charge that could be brought against him prior to the election. Accusing Mr. Taylor of interfering with the democratic process in the Cayman Islands, the writ alleges that he:
Ordered an accelerated police investigation including the arrest of Mr. Bush, timed to cause maximum political damage
Leaked confidential information on the investigation to journalists
Arranged for the media to be present during a search of Mr. Bush’s premises
Pressured the director of Public Prosecutions to bring charges before the election
Pressured legislators to bring a vote of no confidence in the Premier
Secretly agreed with then-Leader of Opposition Alden McLaughlin on a plan of events up to the general election to ensure the permanent removal of Mr. Bush as Premier.
Alleging an agreement between Mr. Taylor and Mr. Baines, the lawsuit states that it was “no mere coincidence” that actions taken by Mr. Bush three years earlier became the focus of a criminal investigation in the run up to the election.
The filing states that police either withheld information or “deliberately shut their eyes” to evidence that would have exonerated Mr. Bush.
“The evidential justification for the charge against the plaintiff was subordinate to the main purpose of procuring his removal from office as Premier and his loss at the general election.”
It adds that the defendants conspired to “destroy” Mr. Bush politically, ensuring his arrest was conducted in a “blaze of publicity.” Mr. Bush lost his long-standing banking relationships, including mortgage arrangements, as a result, and his family business also suffered, it states.
The court documents give the defendants 14 days to acknowledge service of the writ at which point they have the opportunity to outline their defense. Neither the governor’s office nor the police commissioner was prepared to comment Wednesday.
The conspiracy theory was first raised by Mr. Bush’s legal team during the criminal trial last year.
During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Mr. Bush had lost nearly $300,000 in casino slot machines during 11 trips to the U.S. and the Bahamas. During this time he had withdrawn nearly $50,000 in cash in casinos on his government credit card.
Mr. Bush’s defense team, led by QC Geoffrey Cox, cited testimony from civil service witnesses that there was no policy against using credit cards for personal use. Mr. Cox, who produced a series of emails sent by former Governor Taylor during the investigation, said the former Premier was the victim of a disgraceful and cynical plot led by Mr. Taylor to remove him from office.