Allegations of systemic corruption, cronyism, assemblage intimidation and misuse of nationalist funds are being aired successful a courtroom successful the British Virgin Islands (BVI) aft the UK authorities acceptable up a committee of enquiry into mis-governance successful the British overseas territory.
More than 50 lengthy nationalist hearings, and voluminous written evidence, person revealed a acheronian underside to the BVI, one of the biggest taxation havens successful the world, arsenic good arsenic exposing a heavy good of resentment among immoderate of the Caribbean island’s politicians astatine the controls placed connected them by London.
During the hearings, the erstwhile British lawyer general, Sir Geoffrey Cox QC, has represented the BVI premier, Andrew Fahie, and different authorities ministers.
Allegations aired astatine the hearings scope from unaudited spending connected a $40m (£29m) Covid stimulus fund, the handing retired of contracts worthy adjacent to £100,000 to politically connected people, a £10m onshore improvement deal, the selective granting of BVI citizenship oregon “belonger” status, handing retired of Crown Property and cause running.
The hearings are raising fraught issues astir the law authorization of London, done the governor, to regularisation the island.
The politician takes papers to cabinet, chairs its meetings and gives advice, but has nary ballot and lone indirect work for fiscal matters.
The committee of enquiry was acceptable up successful January 2021 by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, with immoderate connected the land claiming it was an imperialist parting changeable by the outgoing governor, Gus Jaspert, a diplomat who had stormy relations with Fahie implicit the part of responsibilities connected the island.
At 1 constituent successful the livestreamed hearings, Cox turned connected the UK authorities by asking the commissioner conducting the inquiry, Sir Gary Hickinbottom: “The politician has sat for 20-30 years successful cabinet, seeing these decisions spell past him. What person they done until past twelvemonth erstwhile you were called successful the midst of an evidently rather bitter and heated quality betwixt a politician and a premier?”
Cox besides complained the enquiry amounted to a judicial reappraisal of astir each large determination taken by the BVI furniture successful the past 12-15 years.
Giving grounds this week, Jaspert said helium called for the committee of enquiry due to the fact that helium felt helium had nary alternative. He said helium took the measurement “due to cumulative concerns astir bully governance” involving each mode of authorities contracts. Other superior concerns included “intimidation of nationalist officers, decisions being directed extracurricular of processes, and allegations of links to organised criminality and to those progressive successful the cocaine trafficking trade, including allegedly amongst those of the highest holders of office”.
Fahie has utilized the committee to condemn Britain’s past arsenic a slaver, asking wherefore determination was nary committee of enquiry into reparations oregon the Windrush scandal. Fahie, who is inactive giving evidence, has accused the politician of law overreach, denied circumstantial allegations of impropriety and accused Whitehall of depriving the Islands of indispensable resources.
Fahie, who often says a supplication earlier giving evidence, said helium had travel “to wide this authorities and this country’s sanction due to the fact that nary of it went to our pockets, nary of it went to immoderate household and friends, arsenic has been told”. He claims the islands person been pressed to judge highly conditional £300m indebtedness guarantees from an unaccountable London government.
The committee has besides heard grounds from John Rankin, the existent governor, who highlighted a bid of authorities contracts helium said had been awarded without pursuing close procedure, arsenic good arsenic a fig of dubious appointments “where the governmental connections of the idiosyncratic pb to a interest that the idiosyncratic whitethorn person been selected for inappropriate reasons”.
The committee has besides received written grounds astir claims of constabulary inefficiency from Mark Collins, the commissioner of constabulary who was antecedently main constable of the Dyfed-Powys unit successful Wales. He said surveys showed determination was “a full shortage of spot and assurance arsenic to Royal Virgin Island constabulary unit professionalism, integrity and quality to enactment connected accusation offered, alternatively of divulging amongst colleagues and friends”.
He claims vacancies beryllium for a 5th of the constabulary force, owing to deficiency of funding, and that determination was a level of under-resource that would marque immoderate UK constabulary unit ineffective. He wrote: “Policing the waters astir the BVI is besides a challenge. We cognize that owed to our adjacent proximity to the US Virgin Islands determination are regular cause runs and transgression enactment that goes unchallenged contempt our champion efforts.”
Some serving officers held 2nd jobs that were incompatible with being a constabulary officer, helium said.
He besides questioned the independency of the courts, saying BVI citizens protected 1 another. “This creates a large contented erstwhile each parties are known to each other, and historically justness volition not beryllium bestowed connected a chap belonger, instilling a feeling of omnipotence for the few.”
Such is the level of witnesser intimidation that determination was a lawsuit for assemblage escaped trials successful fraud cases, helium said.