UK worried about British Virgin Islands after inquiry launched into alleged corruption
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab lists concerns, including misappropriation of pandemic funds, political interference and discovery of cocaine worth more than $250m
London — Britain is concerned about governance in the British Virgin Islands, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said on Monday, adding that an independent commission of inquiry had been set up to look into allegations of corruption.
The British Virgin Islands, located in the Caribbean to the east of Puerto Rico, is a remnant of former British Empire. The territory operates a parliamentary democracy and is self-governing.
A governor appointed by Britain's Queen Elizabeth, Gus Jaspert, has oversight of external affairs, defence, internal security, administration of the courts, the public service, elections, and disaster preparedness.
“The UK is extremely concerned about the state of good governance in the British Virgin Islands,” Raab said in a written statement to parliament. “A consistent and deeply troubling array of concerns have been put to the governor by local institutions and the community.”
Raab listed several concerns, including misappropriation of funds set aside to cope with the pandemic, political interference in public appointments, intimidation of people in public service and misuse of taxpayers' money.
He also said there was a “potential vulnerability of the islands to serious organised crime”, citing a November 2020 discovery of a 2.35 tonne haul of cocaine worth more than $250m.
Raab said an independent commission of inquiry had been set up to “inquire into whether there is information to substantiate claims that corruption, abuse of position and serious impropriety has taken place in public office in recent years”.
The commission led by British judge Gary Hickinbottom would report back within six months, Raab said.
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