Giving examples of what can happen at the end of the BVI’s Commission of Inquiry, Sir Gary Hickinbottom has made it clear that his role as Commissioner isn’t to determine whether individuals in public office have been guilty of a crime.
Instead, Sir Gary said his role is to consider all of the information submitted and make findings as to whether anyone in public service may have been guilty of corruption, abuse of office, or other serious dishonesty in relation to their service.
Sir Gary said he may recommend that criminal proceedings be brought by the local courts, if the Inquiry indicates that prosecution is warranted.
“If I conclude that there is nothing possibly amiss with the governance of these Islands, I will say so; and that will be the end of it. But, if I find there is some possible substance to the concerns, then, as the Terms of Reference require, I will have to consider what might be done about them, and make recommendations for action, for example, in terms of whether criminal proceedings might be brought against any individuals. It would then be for the criminal courts to determine whether crimes have been committed,” Sir Gary explained at a press conference on January 22.
Sir Gary also explained that there are many other recommendations he could make based on his findings.
“I am able to make all sorts of other recommendations if I consider them to be appropriate in light of the findings I have made; for example recommending tightening up the controls over administrative processes,” Sir Gary said.
Flashback Turks and Caicos
A similar COI was carried out in another Overseas Territory — the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI) — between 2008-2009, which sought to determine possible corruption or other serious dishonesty in relation to past and present elected members of the legislature.
Among the many findings, the Commissioner determined that there was “a high probability of systemic corruption in the TCI government and the legislature and among public officers in recent years. It appears, in the main, to have consisted of bribery by overseas developers and other investors of Ministers and/or public officers, so as to secure Crown Land on favourable terms …”
It was also found that there were “extravagant and ill‐judged commitments by those in public office — primarily ministers — in public expenditure and in their private expenditure at public expense.
Based on these findings, it was recommended that there be a partial suspension of the 2006 TCI Constitution and the government be taken over by the Governor.
Criminal proceedings were also recommended and civil recovery of assets arising out of any criminal or other investigations prompted by that COI.
Other recommendations in the TCI included improvement of standards of integrity in public life and stronger laws to govern the sale of land owned by the Crown.
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