Within days, leaders of two Caribbean islands held for graft, misuse of power

Cayman Islands' leader accused of misuse of power, only days after Turks and Caicos islands' former premier arrested for corruption

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 December, 2012, 5:42am

Just days after the former premier of one idyllic British-dependent territory was arrested on corruption allegations, another island leader is accused of theft, breaching the public's trust and misusing his office.

Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush, 57, who has been in power since 2009, was arrested - and then released - on Tuesday by officers from the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service's financial crimes unit.

Last Friday, Brazilian authorities arrested former Turks and Caicos Islands premier Michael Misick, 46, on an international arrest warrant issued by Interpol.

Misick, who had been on the run, was being sought by British investigators who three years ago launched a far-reaching probe into rampant corruption by the Turks and Caicos government. Proceedings are under way to extradite Misick back to the British territory.

The case against Bush will be closely watched by members of the world's financial community, many of whom have interests in the Caymans. The tiny tax haven is the world's sixth largest financial centre, with US$1.6 trillion in officially booked international assets.

Bush's arrest was applauded by members of the Cayman's business scene.

In addition to being accused of misusing his office, he is also accused of theft in relation to the misuse of a government credit card. Police also made a mysterious reference to a conflict of interest relating to the alleged importation of unspecified explosive substances without valid permits.

Leonard Dilbert, the premier's chief of staff, said Bush would continue working as the three-island territory's leader amid the investigation. "There have been no charges," he said.

Later, Dilbert advised people not to rush to judgment. "Being suspected of having done something is far from ... having been proven that you did that thing," he said.

Police said Bush had been released on bail and would face further questioning.

Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor said he had been made aware of the arrest and the criminal investigation was a matter for the police commissioner.

"If evidence is brought to his attention, which leads him to suspect that an offence or offences may have been committed, I expect him to carry out a robust, fair and comprehensive investigation, regardless of the individual concerned," Taylor said.

"I am confident that the police commissioner will ensure that this applies to the ongoing investigations involving the premier."

Cayman Islands police revealed last April that they had a total of three investigations under way involving Bush and that they had been investigating allegations of financial irregularities involving him since late 2010.

The premier said he had done nothing wrong and claimed that the investigations were politically motivated.

Shortly after the police investigations were announced, an article in the Caymanian Compass newspaper quoted Bush as saying that Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office did not like him and that he had been warned in 2009 they would try to ruin him.

The territory's 700-member Chamber of Commerce applauded news of Bush's arrest. It "demonstrates Cayman's robust law enforcement and anti-corruption systems and the islands' intolerance [of] any alleged unethical behaviour or corruption even at the highest level of political office," said chamber president Chris Duggan.

The Coalition for Cayman, an advocacy group for good government, called for Bush to immediately resign.

"We must always be careful not to prejudge anyone and allow the due process of the judicial system to run its course," the group said.

"However, as a nation we must be clear that we will not tolerate corruption in any form."

McClatchy-Tribune, Associated Press