British Virgin Islands

Sunday, May 09, 2021

CoI commissioner departs for UK after ‘productive first visit' to islands

CoI commissioner departs for UK after ‘productive first visit' to islands

After what it called a “productive first visit” to the sister islands on February 1, 2021, the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into governance in the Virgin Islands has announced its Commissioner Gary R. Hickinbottom and Press Secretary Mr Steven Chandler will depart the Virgin Islands for the United Kingdom (UK) to consult with the recently appointed Counsel to the Commission Bilal Rawat.

The Commission of Inquiry (“the Commission”) was announced on January 18, 2021, by controversial ex-governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert to look into whether corruption, abuse of office or other serious dishonesty may have taken place amongst public, elected and statutory officials in recent years.

The Commissioner was sworn in on January 22, 2021, and began his work from that date.

According to CoI Press Secretary Steven Chandler in a press statement today February 4, 2021, under its Terms of Reference, the Commission is required to report within six months and given that time frame, it is essential that the Inquiry team uses its time as efficiently as possible, which can only be achieved by splitting the team’s time between BVI and the UK.

“The Commissioner, Sir Gary Hickinbottom, and the Secretary to the Commission, Steven Chandler, will therefore depart the BVI for the UK on Thursday 4 February after a productive first visit to the islands.”

Commissioner Gary R. Hickinbottom and Press Secretary Mr Steven Chandler will reportedly consult with the recently appointed Counsel to the Commission Bilal Rawat while in the United Kingdom.


Visit to sister islands was ‘extremely useful’


The Commissioner had spent an hour and 15 minutes on each sister island- Anegada, Virgin Gorda and Jost van Dyke- on February 1, 2021.

Chandler said the visit has been extremely useful in identifying the areas and issues on which the Commission will focus its initial attention.

“The Commissioner would like to thank all those he has met and heard from while he has been in the BVI. Although based in Tortola, he was pleased to be able to visit each of the three sister islands where he received an equally warm welcome.”

Chandler also said the Commissioner is extremely grateful for the information that has been shared to date, and for the cooperation and constructive engagement he has received during his visit.

The Commission of Inquiry ('the Commission') was announced on January 18, 2021, by controversial ex-governor Augustus J. U. Jaspert.


The way forward


“The Commissioner and the Secretary are returning to the UK to consult with the recently appointed Counsel to the Commission to consider the initial wave of information the Commission has received. With Counsel to the Inquiry, the Commissioner will then decide how best, and from whom, to seek further information.”

Chandler said it is the intention of the Inquiry team to return to the VI before Easter, adding that the proposed oral hearings will take place in the Territory after Easter and will be concluded no later than the end of May.

“Timings are of course dependent on the impact of COVID travel restrictions.”

Chandler said through press statements and the website, the Commission will keep the people of the VI updated as to progress and any change in timings that might be necessary.

“Between now and the return to Territory, if anyone wishes to meet/speak with the Commissioner, they should contact the Secretary who will be able to arrange a remote meeting by (e.g.) WhatsApp. In any event, the Commissioner encourages anyone who has information that might assist the Inquiry to send that information and any written material in support to the Inquiry team so that he can consider it. The safest and most secure way to do this is via the independent and secure Inquiry website (www.bvi.public-inquiry.uk); but other means of sending in information are set out on the website. All information will be received and held in strict confidence.”

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