A call by finance minister Washington Misick to withdraw or limit funding for the special investigation and prosecution team (SIPT) is perceived locally as self serving and likely prompted by the possibility that current ministers may have something to hide for which they could be charged, including an as yet unresolved report concerning current premier, Rufus Ewing.
Finance Minister Washington Misick
Misick’s brother, former premier Michael Misick, is currently detained in Brazil pending extradition to the TCI to answer questions concerning widespread and systemic government corruption during his 2003-2009 Progressive National Party administration.
According to the SIPT, the extradition process for returning Misick to the TCI to face questioning and possible prosecution is in full swing and may come to a conclusion as early as the end of November this year.
Misick was first arrested in early December 2012. He was later released for 60 days while an appeal against a refusal of political asylum was pending. After Misick lost the appeal he was rearrested.
Prior to his temporary release, Misick wrote letters claiming he was ready and willing to return to the TCI but only via a direct chartered flight. However, no attempt was made to return. Despite Brazilian authorities’ refusal to grant Misick political asylum, he continues to maintain he is being extradited because he is the victim of (British) political persecution.
If Misick loses his fight against extradition, he is expected to be returned on a commercial flight from Brazil via Miami. This has raised speculation that US authorities who have worked closely with the SIPT in the past may detain Misick to answer questions and possible charges in the US before he is returned to the TCI.
TCI News Now has learned from well connected sources in Washington that Misick is indeed a person of interest to a number of agencies in the US and it is also understood that he may be attempting a plea bargain in exchange for information. This possibility has led to considerable apprehension locally as well as regionally over what Misick knows and what he is willing to disclose.
Another Misick brother, Chalmers ‘Chal’ Misick, is due to stand trial next year, along with four former PNP ministers, their family members and others on various criminal charges relating to corruption, fraud and money laundering.
The former Mytle Rigby Medical Centre in Providenciales has been converted extensively as a justice centre in preparation for the upcoming trials. The centre includes court rooms, conference rooms and new jail cells.
The prosecutions were originally re-scheduled for January 2014, which would appear to coincide with Michael Misick’s possible return. However, due to continued delaying tactics by defence attorneys, the trials are now set for July 2014. Helen Garlick, who heads the SIPT, had previously announced she was ready to prosecute two years ago.
Garlick has also said that there are numerous issues to be dealt with beyond the charges former ministers and others now face.
Meanwhile, attention has recently been refocused on a section of the final report of the 2008-2009 commission of inquiry
that referred to suspect dealings by Premier Ewing.
Pages 93 to 95 of the final commission report refers to an earlier special report to the House of Assembly in 2008 by Martin Robinson, then acting chief auditor (the 2008 Robinson Special Report), which then Governor Richard Tauwhare had specifically requested.
Commissioner Sir Robin Auld summarised Robinson’s ten headings of concern:
1) weak to non-existent compliance with the then Crown land policy;
2) blatant speculation in Crown land, particularly on Salt Cay warranting independent review;
3) misuse of Belongers’ entitlements to discounts on dispositions of land for commercial purposes and an inequality in allocation of commercial land, with 40% of such sales in the previous two years being to companies in which present or past members of the House of Assembly and/or their immediate families had a direct interest;
4) failure of compliance in the system of allocation, which was determined in large part by personal contacts, pressure and influence;
5) inadequate and deteriorating systems of Crown land data and data management;
6) general lack of openness and accountability in allocations of Crown Land;
7) reliance by decision-makers on out-of-date valuations and the potential for improper pressures on the TCI Valuation Office;
8) lack of an up-to-date development plan for the Islands and of any adequate inventory of Crown land;
9) insufficient provision of affordable housing on Crown land; and
10) mounting arrears of rentals because of inadequate collection arrangements.
The Robinson 2008 Special Report prompted Tauwhare to write to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on February 22, 2008, in the following terms, referring to the situation in relation to the proposed Salt Cay development:
“There appear to have been up to 12 grants in a short space of time, shortly before a significant hotel development there was announced. Most of those receiving land are related to one another; one is a former PS/Natural Resources, another is the Director of Medical Services and brother in law of Hon Galmo Williams. Most subsequently sold the land to the developer at an average profit of 750%, with individuals making between $300–950k profit each. The total profit to them (and therefore loss to TCIG was over $4m). The valuation used when the land was sold to them dated from 2001 and had not been subsequently updated. Few if any of them appear to have fulfilled the normal terms for being granted freehold. The land sold to the developer himself was also valued on the basis of 2001 valuation.”
The then director of medical services and brother in law of Galmo Williams referred to in Tauwhare’s letter to the FCO is Rufus Ewing.
As yet unresolved in relation to this and similar suspect transactions is the requirement to pay back the government the 50% belonger discount if sold before the expiration of ten years from the date of the belonger grant.
Also not known is whether or not the land “flippers” paid the stamp duty due before the land was resold and who financed the original belonger purchasers, who had limited resources at the time. It is widely believed that the developer ultimately benefiting from the transactions provided the funding for the belonger purchases.