British Virgin Islands

Saturday, Dec 04, 2021

COI responds to AG’s concerns about ‘Belongership hearing’

COI responds to AG’s concerns about ‘Belongership hearing’

The Commission of Inquiry (COI) has responded to a letter sent to them by the Attorney General (AG) Dawn Smith but has declined to publicise the details.

The Attorney General had written to the COI last Thursday expressing concerns about the Commission’s handling of its hearing with Immigration Minister, Vincent Wheatley who had given evidence on issues relating to Belongership.

“The Commissioner [The Rt Hon Sir Gary Hickinbottom] sent the Attorney General response to her letter on the day he received it … Given that these matters may be the subject of further evidence in due course, the Commissioner does not consider it would be appropriate to publish his correspondence with the Attorney General, at least at this stage in the COI’s proceedings: as always, he is anxious to maintain the integrity of evidence, and procedural fairness for all,” said Steven Chandler, the Secretary to the Commission.

The secretary also noted that prior to the AG’s letter, the Commissioner had written to her seeking further information in regards to “relevant matters” to the Inquiry. However, the AG had asked for more time to respond to the request.

The COI did not specify what those matters were.

Wheatley’s evidence and the AG’s concerns

As for last Thursday’s hearing, Wheatley had told the COI that the Virgin Islands Party administration had considered at least two convicted felons for Belongership at the beginning of its term in 2019.

He said based on his assessment of the two individuals, he concluded that they were of ‘good character’.

The AG responded to this by saying the minister was blindsided by the questioning and the COI did not provide him with a copy of the documents in a timely fashion to reacquaint himself with the facts of the case.


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