British Virgin Islands

Saturday, Jul 31, 2021

Gov't Documents In Severe Disarray, CoI Requests More Time To Complete Probe

Gov't Documents In Severe Disarray, CoI Requests More Time To Complete Probe

Documents submitted to the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) from the Government have been in such disarray and in a poor state, that the lifespan of the UK-backed investigation will likely be extended.
This is according to The Rt. Hon Sir Gary Hickinbottom, Commissioner to the Inquiry, who has stated that that the documents produced were significantly incomplete and in generally very poor order."

"Often, it was impossible to ascertain the story that they (interviewees) told. For example, I heard evidence from witnesses over several days on the BVI Government contracts in respect of radar barges simply to try and understand how those contracts might have come into being. Even now, the COI does not have a full set of the relevant documents," he stated during an address on Wednesday, June 2, to mark the start of live hearings.

Sir Hickinbottom further said, at the hearing on 20 May 2021, "Sir Geoffrey Cox QC on behalf of the Attorney General frankly and properly conceded that the BVI Government's files are in "severe disarray", and that (he said) largely explained why the documents produced to the COI had been in such very poor order."

This, the Commissioner explained, inevitably had a serious adverse impact on the progress of the COI.

He added, "In particular, it is inevitable that the analysis of the documents, and the COI hearings, will be significantly more difficult and take substantially longer. I intend to press forward with the public hearings as quickly as is consistent with my terms of reference, which require the inquiry to be not only faithful and impartial but full. However, irrespective of those efforts, it will be clear to all that it is not now possible for me to deliver my report by 19 July 2021, the initial date for its delivery in my Instrument of Appointment. Indeed, it is inconceivable that the hearings will be over by that date."

As a consequence, he informed that he has written to His Excellency the Governor John Rankin, seeking an extension of that time, and he has already indicated his willingness to grant the extension in principle.

"He has asked me to report on the progress of the COI by mid-July before he appoints a date by which he will require me to report," Commissioner Hickinbottom remarked.

He also said going forward, except for exceptional circumstances, all future hearings of the CoI will be live-streamed. Furthermore, the meetings will, for the most part, commencing on June 14, from Monday to Thursday between 10 am to 4.30 pm.
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