Much Still to Be Done before ELECTIONS ,says British Minister

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands — In a wide-ranging series of parliamentary questions and answers in the House of Commons last week, Britain’s minister with responsibility for the Overseas Territories, Henry Bellingham, said that, although good progress has been made towards achieving the required milestones before elections can take place in the Turks and Caicos Islands, there is still much to be done.

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Foreign Office minister with responsibility for the Overseas Territories, Henry Bellingham

Responding to questions from Andrew Rosindell MP, Bellingham said that new ordinances on the electoral process and the regulation of political parties are being prepared.

Rosindell also asked what future funding from the public purse will be provided to the Turks and Caicos Islands Special Investigation Prosecution Team. 

“The British government will consider carefully any requests for further assistance,” Bellingham responded.

When asked about the total spending to date, Bellingham said that, in financial year 2010-11, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) made a discretionary grant of £6.6 million (US$10.7 million) to reimburse the Turks and Caicos Islands government for some of the exceptional costs of the criminal investigation, including the work of the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team, and related civil recovery and police work.

“In financial year 2011-12 the Turks and Caicos Islands government report that expenditure for the Special Investigation and Prosecution team was US$7.6 million. This represents over 4% of expenditure and a significant funding challenge for the Turks and Caicos Islands government. The Turks and Caicos Islands government has introduced a range of new taxes and cut overall expenditure significantly in order to address its structural deficit and put it on course for a sustainable fiscal surplus in financial year 2012-13,” he continued.

As separately reported, Britain has now agreed to make a further grant of £3.8 million (US$6.1 million) in financial year 2011-12 to reimburse the Turks and Caicos Islands government for a proportion of the costs associated with the continuing criminal investigation and associated prosecutions. 

“The Secretary of State also approved an additional £745,000 (US$1.2 million) contribution to the cost of setting up a suitable courtroom for the trials which will be held as a result of the investigation,” Bellingham disclosed.

In addition to these grants, the British government spent approximately £86,000 (US$139,000) on costs in the UK relating to the Special Investigation and Prosecution Team in financial year 2011-12, he added.

Rosindell went on to ask if the FCO will publish a list of assets reclaimed by the Turks and Caicos Islands special investigation and prosecution team to date. 

“Confiscation of the proceeds of crime can only occur post conviction. The special investigation and prosecution team carefully considers the need to restrain assets where there is evidence of a risk of dissipation. To date this has only been deemed necessary in the case of the former Premier, Michael Misick.

“It is also possible in appropriate circumstances to settle an investigation into suspected criminal conduct by agreeing a civil recovery order. This has been done with one suspect, who has paid the sum of US$1.25 million,” Bellingham responded.

In addition, Bellingham said, the separate civil recovery team has made in excess of 40 separate recoveries of money and/or land. The monetary element is more than $12 million including payments already made, judgments obtained and still to be collected and agreements to pay. More than 900 acres of land have also so far been returned to the Crown as a result of the civil recovery team’s work. The value of the land recovered so far is many tens of millions of dollars. Many other cases are underway and, by the end of the programme, the team expects to have recovered land worth hundreds of millions of dollars for the people of the TCI as well as significant further amounts of cash or other assets.

 published in Caribbean News Now on 01st May 2012

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