UK official seeks to block disclosure in Bush lawsuit

A Miami-based U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office employee is opposing an application for disclosure in a civil lawsuit filed against former top Cayman Islands officials who were accused of conspiring to topple former Cayman Premier McKeeva Bush’s government in 2011-2012.

The foreign office employee, Larry Covington, was never named in the 2015 lawsuit filed by Mr. Bush against Cayman’s former Governor Duncan Taylor and former Police Commissioner David Baines. Rather, Mr. Covington was asked earlier this year to provide information that Mr. Bush’s attorneys believe he holds regarding the decision to arrest and prosecute Mr. Bush over various allegations, including that Mr. Bush used government-issued credit cards improperly to gamble.

Mr. Bush, acquitted of all charges during a 2014 criminal trial, sued Messrs. Taylor, Baines and the Cayman Islands government over the prosecution, which he alleged was orchestrated to remove him and his United Democratic Party government from office.

Mr. Bush, now the Speaker of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly, filed a request for judicial assistance with the U.S. District Court in January to retrieve documents, including emails and other communications between Mr. Covington and Cayman officials covering a period of about six years between 2009 and 2014.

Although the civil lawsuit is proceeding in Cayman, the judicial assistance request was filed in south Florida because that is where Mr. Covington resides.

According to Mr. Covington’s attorneys, the foreign office employee has sought to oppose Mr. Bush’s request on a number of grounds.

“In short, there is no credible evidence to establish that Mr. Covington was in any manner involved in the prosecution of Mr. Bush, which is the basis for [Mr. Bush’s] civil claims,” court records filed in Miami Tuesday read.

Mr. Bush’s attorneys’ submissions, in asking that Mr. Covington disclose any relevant records he may hold, included copies of emails between former Governor Taylor and a U.K. foreign office employee named “Tony” in which Mr. Taylor stated he would be relieved when Mr. Bush was arrested.

“I’m not opening any quiet bubbly until it is confirmed,” Mr. Taylor wrote in one 2013 email. “When it is, there will be a huge sigh of relief across the Cayman Islands, including a loud one from this office.”

Mr. Covington’s filing in the U.S. district court indicates the former governor’s emails revealed during Mr. Bush’s 2014 criminal trial were not addressed to him and that Mr. Bush had failed to establish Mr. Covington played “any role whatsoever” in the factual matters at issue in the civil lawsuit.

Mr. Covington’s attorneys also pointed out that no similar request had been made to the Cayman Islands court for disclosure and that disclosure was likely protected anyway under U.S.-U.K. diplomatic treaties. Mr. Covington, as a U.K. consular employee, is entitled by the 1952 U.S.-U.K. Consular Convention to “refuse a request from the courts or authorities of the territory [of the United States] to produce any documents from his archives or other official papers or give evidence related to matters within the scope of his official duties.”

Mr. Covington has been employed with the U.K. government in the Miami area since January 2007 and largely provides support and advice to law enforcement agencies in the British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean and the Atlantic.

Bush’s request

According to Mr. Bush’s initial application for judicial assistance filed with the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida, Mr. Bush and his attorneys have asked for copies of all emails sent or received by Mr. Covington between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2014 “relating to the intended and actual investigation and subsequent prosecution and trial of Mr. Bush.”

The request for the court’s assistance also seeks, “all notes, reports, memoranda or other documents of any kind” created during the same time and relating to the same subject.

“Mr. Bush also seeks that Mr. Covington attend a deposition to answer questions as to the role he played in the prosecution of Mr. Bush and to explain the documents that he produced,” the Jan. 18 application states.

“Mr. Covington appears to have been closely involved with the investigation and subsequent prosecution of Mr. Bush. It is simply not possible that no documents have been sent to, or generated by, Mr. Covington during the entire process.”

In his filing with the district court this week, Mr. Covington indicated he would be willing to appear in the U.S. court to oppose Mr. Bush’s application before any final decisions in the matter are made.

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