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BVI launches four criminal investigations per COI Report; Decision on UK direct rule likely in the coming days

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by Kevon Browne

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The British Virgin Islands has started work on some of the 45 recommendations in the Commission of Inquiry (COI) Report needed to address governance concerns of the territory with the launch of four criminal investigations.

The announcement of the investigations was made in a statement from the Governor-General of the BVI, Mr. John Rankin.

His Excellency Rankin instructed the Commissioner of Police in the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, Mr. Mark Collins, to undertake the criminal investigations recommended in the Report.

The investigations will be as follows:

A criminal investigation into the conduct of the Premier’s Office (under the previous Premier) in obstructing the Director of the Internal Audit Department in respect of her audit of the COVID-19 Assistance Programmes (COI Recommendation B14);

A criminal investigation or investigations into the recovery of the public money expended on the Sea Cow Bay Harbour Development project and the Virgin Islands Neighbourhood Partnership project (COI Recommendation B20);

A criminal investigation or investigations into the recovery of the public money expended in the disposal of Parcel 310 of Block 2938B, Road Town Registration Section (COI Recommendation B32);

An investigation into possible corruption within Her Majesty’s Customs (COI Recommendation B40).

The Governor-General shared that criminal investigations are already underway concerning two capital projects suspected of being implications for corruption, the Elmore Stoutt High School Perimeter Wall project and the BVI Airways project.

No media comments will be made by Rankin on the content of the investigations. Still, he assured that any public official engaged in criminal wrong-doing should be brought to justice and held accountable under the law.

The decision from the United Kingdom’s Government on Premier, the Hon. Dr Natalio Wheatley’s proposal to tackle the COI recommendations under democratic governance and not the UK’s direct rule is expected in the coming days.

Premier Wheatley addressed the proposal during a press conference on May 13.

” I am hopeful that we will receive a decision within a few days… they have said to us that they have received it; they actually asked a few questions about the proposal, so we know that they are currently considering it, and we are hopeful that they’ll come forward with a positive response to us very soon… we’ve made a proposal for us to be able to implement the reforms ourselves outside of the suspension of the constitution and we are hopeful that accept. So I am pretty sure that they’ll respond directly to our proposal as to whether they accept it or not accept it.”

Dr. Wheatley assured residents that the plan would be made publicly available.

“Certainly, we are going to come to the people of the Virgin Islands and let them know specifically what we are doing to promote good governance.”

The Premier encouraged the people to read the summary of the COI Report recommendations to understand what is committed in the proposal made to the UK Government.

Implementation of the recommendations will include dialogue and consultation with the Governor-General, the local government, the UK Government and the people of the BVI.

The new Cabinet of the BVI had its first meeting on May 11 after officially taking the Confidentiality Oaths.

The members of the new Cabinet of the Virgin Islands include the Minister for Natural Resources and Labour Honourable Melvin M. Turnbull, Deputy Premier and Minister for Communications and Works Honourable Kye Rymer, Premier and Minister of Finance Dr. the Honourable Natalio Wheatley, Minister for Health and Social Development Honourable Marlon A. Penn and Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, and Sports Honourable Sharie de Castro.

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