Attorney General Huw Shepheard (L) and Premier Rufus Ewing
Following comments made at a news conference on Friday morning by Premier Rufus Ewing, the Governor’s Office issued the following response in relation to attorney general Huw Shepheard:
• The Attorney General (AG) Huw Shepheard was appointed properly in line with the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) Constitution. He has done a good job since 2010, and he provides essential continuity until 2016.
• The questions asked by the Premier and Minister of Finance of the AG relate only to the investigations associated with SIPT and Civil Recovery. The appropriate information requested will be provided according to the timetable laid out by the then Acting AG, Rhondalee Braithwaite-Knowles. Clearly, the information must be vetted to ensure that it does not inadvertently damage ongoing legal cases – it would be wholly inappropriate for this to happen. The AG’s expenditure is not unchecked.
• Comments made today indicate that there is confusion over cases that are being prosecuted by the TCI authorities, with those that are being defended by Chambers. These must be separated out. For example, Trade Wind Industries brought a $100m action against the TCI Government, with the people’s and the administration’s interests defended by the AG.
• Were Huw Shepheard to be removed from office (and no evidence of misconduct or incompetence has been provided), both the SIPT (under the Director of Public Prosecutions) and Civil recovery programmes would clearly continue. Indeed, it is in the TCI taxpayers’ interests to do so, for example:
• SIPT activity to date:
There are 10 accused, including former PNP ministers and a party leader, who will face a plea and direction hearing on 6 January 2014, and trial on 7 July 2014
Richard Padgett has pled guilty and will be sentenced on 13 January 2014
Three TCI lawyers have been charged and will face pleas and direction hearings on 1 and 8 November 2013
A further three persons were charged but subsequently entered into civil recovery orders, which saw cash and assets returned to the TCI taxpayer
The SIPT has recovered nearly $19.25m in cash and assets for the TCI; the UK met almost all of the costs of the SIPT in 2010-11 and 2011-12
An extradition request has been made to Brazil to return Michel Misick to TCI to stand trial
• Civil recovery activity to date:
More than 60 cases progressed, recovering $20.5m in cash and 3,000 acres (worth $100m+) for a cost of $13m
The money and land recovered will now be used for the long term benefit of the TCI taxpayer
An earlier statement issued by Ewing read as follows:
This response relates to the press statement issued yesterday [Thursday] by the Acting Governor Anya Williams concerning the Attorney General Huw Shepeard.
The facts as it relates to the Attorney General are as follows:
Prior to the September 30, 2013 expiry of the Attorney General’s contract, on February 10, 2013, I wrote to the Secretary of State requesting the immediate recall of the previous CFO, the Governor and the Attorney General, and cited my reasons for making such request.
On September 1, 2013 I wrote to the then Governor, Ric Todd, asking him to rescind his decision to reappoint Huw Shepherd as Attorney General, as I continued to strongly oppose the renewal of the Attorney General’s contract and I requested that this be done in the Cabinet meeting of September 4th. At that Cabinet meeting on September 4, at which the Attorney General was absent, the Governor, in response to my further request for the removal of the Attorney General, requested that the Attorney General be afforded an opportunity to defend himself at the next Cabinet meeting by answering the questions posed by us, in an effort to clarify any misunderstandings, and to this I agreed.
On September 9, 2013, upon my instructions, the Minister of Finance wrote to the Acting Attorney General and submitted a list of questions for the Attorney General to answer in an effort to ensure that the Government has a full picture of the financial and legal activities of the Attorney General’s Chambers. The Acting Attorney General acknowledged receipt of the correspondence and committed to having the requested information to us within 3 weeks. We are still awaiting receipt of this information.
On September 11, 2013, in response to the Minister’s communication and questions sent prior to the Attorney General, the Governor wrote asking me to state specifically, the legal cases that I have concerns with. I remain confused by this request from the Governor, as undoubtedly we have communicated specific questions for the answers we seek, to the Attorney General and to date, he has failed to provide satisfactory responses to those questions.
The questions that remain unanswered, concern no specific legal case and therefore we see the Governor’s letter as a red herring, designed to distract us from the fact that questions remain regarding the decisions and performance of the Attorney General and those questions remain unanswered. In light of the Attorney General’s obvious reluctance to provide clarity, it gives me cause for grave concern and suggests more and more that the truth is perhaps worse than initially suspected.
On September 30, 2013, I wrote to the Attorney General reminding him of the questions that had been submitted to him three weeks prior and informed him that I expected him to provide those answers at the Cabinet meeting of October 2, 2013, to which he responded with his commitment to having the information available.
At the Cabinet meeting of October 2, 2013 the Attorney General whether intentionally or otherwise, failed to furnish the information to the questions asked by both the Minister of Finance and me. He was also asked several questions, in addition to those that had been previously submitted in writing and to which, contrary to the view of the Acting Governor, his responses were totally unsatisfactory.
Those are the facts as it relates to the course of events concerning the Attorney General and leading up to the outcomes of the 21st Meeting of Cabinet and the 10th Sitting of the House of Assembly, held on October 2nd and 3rd 2013, respectively.
My Government’s main concern relates to Good Governance and transparency which is also echoed by members of the UK Government, especially those who have made representation on the floor of Parliament concerning the Civil Recovery Team and its expenditure.
We, as a Government are being asked to cut expenditure and finding it difficult to provide funding for scholarships for our children, to provide adequate space in our schools and to create jobs for our people, whilst expenditure in the areas of the Attorney General’s responsibility goes unchecked.
We are not satisfied with the performance of the Attorney General and we are convinced that he does not hold important, what is in the best interest of the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Attorney General should be made to provide the information to Government and the People that is requested of him and we will continue our efforts to obtain the necessary information from the Attorney General, both in Cabinet and in the House of Assembly, to ensure that we continue to operate the affairs of the Turks & Caicos Islands in fairness and transparency, and holding all accountable.