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(CNS Business): The Chamber of Commerce and Cayman Finance have both raised concerns over the revelations that the Cayman Islands premier is the subject of three police investigations but have both stopped short of asking the country’s leader and UDP party boss to step down. The two organisations have called for a speedy resolution to the police probes in order to protect the jurisdiction’s reputation. CITA, which represents the tourism sector, made no comment about the revelations as it said its membership was not fully informed, a sentiment echoed by the Cayman Islands Bankers Association, and the Law Society declined to comment on the police probes into McKeeva Bush over two alleged cases of financial irregularities and his involvement with an illegal shipment of dynamite.
Speaking at yesterday’s press conference, the leader of the opposition had said that the PPM members would be canvassing the opinions of business and other community leaders in their campaign to persuade the premier to step aside while he remains the subject of criminal investigations to save the reputation of the country. He said the people he had spoken to already in the business community had raised their concerns about the situation and they were not happy about Bush staying in offices as though nothing had happened.
McLaughlin said that traditionally Cayman had been distinguished from other jurisdictions in the region by the absence of institutional corruption, which was very important to the business community.
“Those who do business in Cayman and those who invest here must have real questions in their minds now about the Cayman Islands as a place to do business. That is one of the inevitable consequences of something like this … when the investigations drag on interminably without result and new investigations are announced, but the premier continues in office. People must ask questions about what kind of a jurisdiction is that.”
The continuation of the enquiries and Cayman’s reputation was of particular concern to the Chamber and its 700 members, a spokesperson stated on Tuesday.
“As expected, the announcement has generated negative international media coverage at a time when the local business community is working diligently to improve the economy, increase investment and jobs,” the Chamber stated in response to the governor’s comments on Friday and the revelations by the police on Saturday that the premier was at the heart of three different criminal probes.
“It is therefore imperative that these police investigations are completed as efficiently and quickly as possible to confirm or dismiss the legitimacy of the allegations, the spokesperson added.
Speaking on behalf of Cayman Finance, chairman Richard Coles echoed the concerns of the Chamber. “We hope that the matters being investigated can be concluded with some urgency so that the cases can be closed to avoid any further damage to the jurisdiction's reputation,” he said.
Meanwhile, CIBA, the local bankers’ association, was reluctant to comment as the president, Mike McWatt, told CNS that the membership knew little about the investigation and did not have sufficient information to make a meaningful comment on the matter. The Cayman Islands Tourism Association (CITA) also seemed to have little to say about the premier’s predicament and the Law Society declined to comment at all.
This refusal to comment came following a statement from the RCIPS on Saturday that the premier was now the subject of three different police investigations. Two of those relate to financial irregularities, one of which surrounds a letter sent by Bush to Texan developer Stan Thomas back in 2004 asking for $350,000 to settle a matter relating to a land deal and zoning. The third police probe, according to the police, is connected with an unlicensed shipment of dynamite that recently arrived in Cayman.
The opposition leader said on Monday that under these circumstances it was untenable for Bush to remain in office, even if he is completely innocent, while being the subject of criminal investigation to save the reputation of the Cayman Islands.
“When serious allegations are sufficient enough to warrant police investigations, the premier ought not to be in office as his being there could impact and delay the conduct of the investigation,” he said, adding that he believed the authorities were reluctant to move while he was still in office and this was acting as a buffer to the progression of the investigations.
So far, the premier has declined to resign, despite calls for him to do so, as he says he has done nothing wrong and claims the allegations are a conspiracy of UK civil servants seeking to discredit the Cayman Islands.
"The continual rumours of investigations without any formal notice to the premier, the possible involvement of certain civil servants in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are reminiscent of – and consistent with – the Operation Tempura fiasco and other attempts over the years, such as the Brian Gibbs and the David Ballantyne operation (both of whom are now employed in the FCO) to destabilize and damage the government of the Cayman Islands,” the premier stated at the weekend, calling the allegations baseless.
Although Bush described the investigations as “rumours”, the governor, the police commissioner and the UK minister have all confirmed the existence of the police probes.
See CNS Viewpoint: Cayman’s omnishambles
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