BVI News

COI slams AG for accusing former Registrar of Interests of criminality

Attorney General Dawn Smith

The Commission of Inquiry (COI) has rejected Attorney General (AG) Dawn Smith’s accusation that the former Registrar of Interests, Victoreen Romney-Varlack, committed a criminal offence in disclosing to former Governor Augustus Jaspert that legislators had been breaching the Register of Interests Act.

Effectively, the Register of Interests is a record kept of the financial interests of legislators. Its purpose is to give them the mechanism to publicly declare any private interests which may conflict or may be perceived to conflict with their public duties.

However, the Act in and of itself prevents the Registrar from disclosing information relating to any declaration or matter in the register, among other things.

It was this context the AG relied upon in arguing that the information shared with the former governor was effectively in breach of section 13 of the Act and of the Registrar’s oath of confidentiality.

Smith said the Registrar had committed a criminal offence because the information was disclosed in the course of the Registrar’s duties under the Act and argued that the correspondence sent to House of Assembly (HOA) members related to their declarations.

The AG argued the only correct recourse for the Registrar to take was to seek expeditious legal advice about remedies that might’ve been available to her.

Smith called the former Registrar a “persistent offender“ for the alleged breaches that she had reportedly committed.

But in the COI report, Commissioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom described the AG’s arguments as “inherently unattractive” and seemingly had no hope for redemption.

“Whilst there may be some purpose in keeping confidential the interests of [House of Assembly] members, there can be no (proper) purpose in keeping secret the fact that members generally (or a specific member) has or has not complied with his or her constitutional and statutory obligation to register whatever interests he or she has.”

He said it was clearly in the public interest and that of good governance to know whether elected officials had complied with their obligations.

Sir Gary noted that the AG’s argument was “on its head” in stating that the Registrar and the Governor acted illegally and against good governance in seeking to get wayward House members to comply with their obligations.

Background

In December 2020 after the Registrar and former Governor Jaspert discussed the continued failure of House members to register their interests, the governor reportedly asked for further particulars from her.

The Registrar then sent a memorandum to him with an attached table setting out details of the House members’ defaulters and copies of her correspondence with three of the most serious defaulters who sought the required declarations.

This was reportedly not the first time that the Registrar had sought the assistance of successive governors in attempts to encourage House members to comply with their constitutional and statutory obligations.

While noting that the Registrar’s efforts were not a secret, Sir Gary said the former Premier, Dr Orlando Smith had also been copied into some of the exchanges.

 

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59 Comments

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  1. Moses says:

    All Government officials should file financial disclosure forms on an annual basis. The penalties for failure to do so should be the immediate loss of their job. The penalties for misreporting their financial interests should be jail.

    We need an institution that can actively monitor this.

    Like 86
    Dislike 2
    • HUH! says:

      The offence was committed by the former Governor when he asked for details of what was or was not on the Register!

      Dislike 62
      • Miss Bea says:

        Romney-Varlack, as well as Governor Jaspert, will be covered by the UK Whistleblower Act:

        Protection for whistleblowers in the UK is provided under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA), which amends the Employment Rights Act 1996. The PIDA protects employees and workers who blow the whistle about wrongdoing.

        Those who are defending the AG need to get their heads our their *** and defend truth and honesty instead.

        Like 56
      • @ HUH! says:

        You need to read and understand because all of what was said in the article went over your head.

        Like 16
        Dislike 1
      • @Huh says:

        Clearly, you haven’t understood what you’ve read. The AG and the Ministers accused the Registrar of possibly committing a criminal offence because, after years of jer asking and asking for the elected reps to declare their interests, few had done so. She told the Governor that the Registrar of Interests Act was not being complied with. She did NOT give him any details of any member’s interests. She simply pointed out to him that she wasn’t getting any cooperation or compliance.

        Instead of threatening the elected reps who had not made declarations, the AG and the ministers accused the Registrar of criminality. They know many people don’t read and some can’t comprehend what they read so they can come out looking innocent while one of the few public servants who acted rightfully is besmirched.

        Like 73
        Dislike 1
      • Investigation needed says:

        I would like to know if any criminal offences were committed by this Attorney General? Like in giving false or misleading information to the Commission? We need someone to look into this.

    • Rubber Duck says:

      If the Register of interests is not public, then in reality it makes zero difference whether politicians fill it in or not.

      To be effective it must be public.

  2. wow says:

    And she is still AG?

    Like 81
    Dislike 1
  3. Conspiracy says:

    To avoid good governance goes deep and wide in the past Fahie VIP administration.

    Like 44
  4. Resident says:

    she needs to go asap

    Like 66
    Dislike 3
    • To resident above says:

      Why would you want her to go my friend? For being diligent and doing her job?

      What do you prefer, a rampant disregard for the rules of the land for and by a select few – for and by those selected based upon their word of moving the country forward?

      Can’t have it both ways: complain when elected ones betray the trust of the people and turn around and complain about the few diligent and honest ones holding true to the oath of their positions?

      Good job madam Atorney General.
      All the best.

      Like 4
      Dislike 74
  5. Shine light says:

    I was surprised by that but I guess she was following orders…. Sad, though.

    Like 33
  6. Guest says:

    😂🤣😂🤣😂😂🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿👍👍👍

    Like 7
    Dislike 1
  7. What? says:

    So just eight months ago, the same people who are still in office – elected and unelected – were claiming that the people who were actually looking out for the public interest were the criminals and villains, “peristent offender”, or, in the case of the Auditor General, that she was “politically motivated” but we want to believe that they have all had a change of heart and seen the light? That they are turning a new leaf? Really? And people honestly think we can clean ourselves up? We don’t even know right from wrong so how can we clean anything up??

    We have accused the people doing the right as being wrong and prayed and fasted with those who were doing wrong, looking on them as being right.

    Like 50
    Dislike 1
  8. Everything was good until says:

    Baba probably so happy he gone lol

    Like 23
  9. Dawn is Not ... says:

    For a lawyer Dawn is a … If she was that *** she would be been scooped up by a private firm a long time ago.

    Like 24
    Dislike 6
    • Lawyer says:

      You know she left lucrative private practice to serve this country? She was a very talented litigation lawyer at Conyers. Dawn is a person of integrity and great intelligence.

      Like 9
      Dislike 31
      • @Lawyer says:

        She left an unrewarding private sector job. Your comment does not explain her demeanour and zeal for protecting corrupt politicians.

        Like 44
        Dislike 3
      • @Lawyer says:

        If so, why she never once went to represent FSC when they had court hearings?

        There are many of us who REALLY know her! Time longer than twine!

        What you spit up, falls back in your face!

        Like 20
        Dislike 2
      • @Lawyer says:

        I am a lawyer as well and currently tasked with training them. Moreover, I have also I have worked with this f**l.

        Like 13
        Dislike 1
      • Clerk says:

        Wtf would offer her a brief?

        If you can’t cut it, join the government.

        Like 6
        Dislike 1
    • Lilly says:

      Not everyone wants to work in the private sector. Believe it or not there are some people who believe in serving their country.

      Like 16
      Dislike 5
  10. Asking for a friend says:

    How come Showada not asking her to resign like he did the esteemed?

    Like 32
    Dislike 4
  11. Hmmm says:

    And you all still think the BVI doesn’t need the UK’s help? Just shameful.

    Like 43
    Dislike 1
  12. Understanding says:

    We the people has a big issue with understanding yes according to the law yes the former Registrar of Interest did brake the law by not following the proper protocols by disclosing the information.

    While yes on the other hand the elected officials broke the law by not registering their interest as they are required by law.

    The AG was referring to the Act and COI commissioner was referring to the Act as well

    Like 2
    Dislike 22
  13. A Better Virgin Islands says:

    Just Put The Thing Online!

    Let the public have access to these things. It’s so simple. If you care about the country and want to work for the people and are not greedy you wouldn’t care if your interests are public.

    Like 21
    • Have you seen her? says:

      The AG spearheaded a $6.2M legal campaign to defend a money launderer and drug trafficker and to argue against a COI that’s trying to restore good governance in the BVI. How can she be independent and free from conflicts of interest when her brother and cousin (the former premier) are being criminally investigated for the 7.2M BVI Airways deal, and during that deal she was the PS in the Premiers Office? This AG lacks the m**al leadership or integrity to continue to be the governments chief legal advisor.

      Like 22
  14. TurtleDove says:

    @ Lawyer

    Dawn is a person of integrity and great intelligence.

    We need an explanation. So the public servant was saying something is wrong here not to the media but to the two top dogs in the land and this is how she was treated?

    Like 1
    Dislike 8
  15. Ajic says:

    This woman is an id**t

    Like 15
    Dislike 5
  16. They all were afraid of Fahie.. says:

    I wonder why all these people were afraid of Fahie..From the Legislators to the AG and Govt officials.Wonder why?

    Like 13
    Dislike 1
  17. What is the point? says:

    What is the point of a register of interests which is not public?

    Like 9
    Dislike 2
  18. aaahhh... says:

    “what a tangled web we weave
    when first we practice to deceive.”

  19. Repent says:

    inexperienced, ignorant or outright clueless. a wise person will apologize and learn from the distasteful acts.

    Be so good that they can’t ignore you- Steve martin.

    Like 4
    Dislike 1
  20. For God's sake says:

    For God’s sake get a new AG asap. This one is making no sense.

    Like 11
    Dislike 1
  21. rastarite says:

    So easy for ministers and representatives to nominate spouses, siblings and offspring to be owners of businesses or consultancies so as to avoid declaration of ownership.

  22. Thank God for this COI says:

    These politicians and people in power had this place sinking slowly while benefiting. No wonder they were so much against the COI..All involved in wrong, illegal and unethical conduct need to go. We need to do a good and serious clean up..

    Like 17
  23. Yank says:

    If I may, Dear Limey crusaders for truth. They pulled gotta card on her somewhere in the last year that implicates or threatens her somehow. Her tone/positions changed at some time in that period. Those dominoes the circus royals got are coming to lay on table.

  24. Suspend the constitution says:

    What an m** m**.

    So is she essentially coming down on the employees that are trying to promote good governance and defending those that are breaking the law?

    Why is she still the AG? She needs to be placed on administrative leave while the investigations are underway.

  25. Sensible Head says:

    Mrs RV was brave and did her job properly. She tried and tried to get government to file as is their legal and some would say moral duty
    The AG is the advisor to the Governor as well as Government but she seems to have forgotten her role and instead tried to protect and deflect from ministers when the spotlight was on them
    How can we have good governance if our AG doesn’t understand legislation?

    Perhaps as we are clearing out a few people we might aim for an AG that understands legislation and can operate in an unbiased manner… just a suggestion!

    Like 12
  26. Ausar says:

    I have always argued for the disclosures of assets prior to serving AND after retirement/ loss of service!

    It is the only way to truly determine honesty during years of service.

    And as we can all see, that with the disgraced former Premier, these disclosures are fundamental to the security of the country!

  27. The Act says:

    The law itself is stupid And needs to be amended immediately. You can see it was designed by politicians to suit politicians. The registry must be for public disclosure. The Public needs to see what you entered politics with and what you left with. What is the point when it is kept a deep dark secret. If you do not want people to know your business then you have no need to enter politics.

    Like 12
    • Yes but says:

      “The Public needs to see what you entered politics with and what you left with. What is the point when it is kept a deep dark secret.”

      Yes but we happen to the world’s no. 1 specialists in making money disappear into untraceable black holes. That’s called our financial service industry – something we’ve been brainwashed into thinking is a legit business when in fact it serves exactly these types of politicians, enabling them to come into office with $100k and leave with $20m and no one has to know.
      Yet here we are outraged at our own politicians doing what we offer politicians and other common thieves from other countries.
      Ethics is not our strong point. Self reflection isn’t either.

      Like 1
      Dislike 1
  28. Poor lady says:

    Don’t bash her too much
    She was acting in the best interest of her 30 second cousins They prefer to put their own that doing an honest job
    “ We are a young territory “

    This is the culture we met
    Oh my dear don’t know the meaning of honesty
    Only the meaning of looking the other way
    Because he is one of us
    She is one of us
    Oh boy !!

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