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Top Cayman Islands official arrested over alleged theft

December 11, 2012|By Emily Alpert
  • Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush, in a 2009 photo, was arrested Dec. 11 in a corruption investigation.
Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush, in a 2009 photo, was arrested Dec.… (Dave Allocca / Associated…)

Police arrested the top official in the Cayman Islands on Tuesday morning on suspicion of corruption, including abuse of office, theft and conflict of interest, the latest chapter in an ongoing investigation in the British territory famed as both a tax haven and a Caribbean idyll.

Premier McKeeva Bush, 57, was taken into custody at his home on Grand Cayman island, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said in a brief statement.

The Cayman Islands premier was detained “in connection with a number of ongoing police investigations,” it said, including allegations tied to misusing a government credit card and importing explosive substances without the proper permits.

No other details  were immediately available from police. “It would be inappropriate … to make any further comment in relation to these matters at this time,” the police wrote on their website. “Further updates will be made available in due course.”

The arrest testifies to “the Islands’ intolerance with any alleged unethical behavior or corruption even at the highest level of political office,” Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce President Chris Duggan said Tuesday in a statement, throwing the organization's backing to police efforts to “root out any unethical behavior that may damage the reputation of the Cayman Islands as a leading international financial center.”

Police said in April that they were investigating Bush in connection with suspected financial irregularities. The premier remained in office, and contended that airing the allegations was “politically motivated,” calculated to embarrass him while a British minister was visiting.

After news broke of his arrest Tuesday, his chief of staff told the Associated Press that Bush would continue to serve, emphasizing that no charges had been filed. Bush gained his post in elections 3 1/2 years ago

 The Coalition for Cayman, a political group recently founded to advocate for “independent leadership,” argued that though it would not “prejudge anyone … we feel it is in the best interest of the country that Premier Bush step down from office" while the case runs its course.

Gov.  Duncan Taylor sought to reassure islanders that the government would continue to function smoothly. Taylor said in a statement that he expected the police commissioner to carry out “a robust, fair and comprehensive investigation, regardless of the individual concerned.”

Bush was detained days after the former prime minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands, another British territory in the region, was arrested in Brazil on suspicion of corruption.

Corruption is seen as a major problem across much of the Caribbean, including Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago, according to a recent study by the Latin American Public Opinion Project at Vanderbilt University; the study did not include the Cayman Islands or Turks and Caicos.

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