British officials may face inquiry after former Cayman premier acquitted
Thursday’s acquittal by a local jury of former Cayman Islands premier McKeeva Bush on abuse of office and corruption charges may have ramifications for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
The allegations against Bush arose after a three-year investigation that concluded that he abused his government issued credit card contrary to established rules and policy by obtaining personal cash advances totalling $50,000, many at casinos in Florida and Las Vegas.
Bush was charged last year with 11 counts of official misconduct and breach of public trust in a case that led to his being ousted from office following a motion of no confidence.
Bush denied the accusations, saying the cash was obtained legally under existing rules at the time. He claimed to be the victim of a “political witch hunt” by the island’s British-appointed governor.
During the course of the trial, email communications came to light that suggested Bush had been the victim of a personal vendetta by the then governor, Duncan Taylor, now British Ambassador to Mexico, and other UK appointed representatives operating in the Cayman Islands specifically timed to affect the outcome of the 2013 general election.
Bush did not testify and his lawyer called no defence witnesses, saying there was no case to answer.
In his closing speech, Geoffrey Cox QC, defending Bush, read a number of emails by Taylor and others that he claimed clearly described “a plot of breath-taking proportions” to remove Bush from his democratically elected position as premier and the conspiracy to do so. Cox urged the jury to accept that the evidence of abuse of the credit card by Bush was non-existent and that the charges resulted from the conspiracy.
During Cox’s summing up, he highlighted a series of emails that had passed between Taylor and British FCO officials, the commissioner of police, the auditor general and others that suggested that British diplomats pressured the Cayman Islands police to bring charges.
In one of the emails, the then governor commented that “a quiet bottle of bubbly might be in order” if Bush was charged.
Michael Misick, another former premier from the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), also a British Overseas Territory, is set to go on trial for corruption early next year, along with four other former ministers.
Misick supporters in the TCI welcomed Bush’s acquittal on Thursday and the disclosure of the controversial emails as evidence of a widespread conspiracy by Britain targeting elected leaders in its overseas territories.