British Virgin Islands

Tuesday, Jul 27, 2021

Local Cops, Not UK Experts Pursuing BVI Airways Criminal Probe

Local Cops, Not UK Experts Pursuing BVI Airways Criminal Probe

Despite indications that funding was approved to hire United Kingdom (UK) experts to assist the crimminal investigations into the BVI Airways fiasco, a decision was made for local investigators to go it alone.
Outgoing Police Commissioner, Michael Matthews confirmed this in a recent interview with BVI Platinum News.

"We didn't have the United Kingdom here for the BVI airways investigation....that's been handled by the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF); a local detective is in charge of that investigation," Matthews indicated.

On June 9, last year, Former Governor Augustus Jaspert announced that the (RVIPF) will receive funding to hire expert investigators to help their criminal investigation of the project that cost taxpayers $7.2M.

"I am pleased to see appropriate action is being taken forward. The Commissioner of Police [Michael Matthews] has undertaken steps to launch a criminal investigation based on the contents of this report. I was pleased to support the Commissioner’s request to appoint independent financial investigation experts to set the wheels in motion for the investigation and I am grateful to members of the National Security Council for agreeing to the funding," the Governor had disclosed.

However, the Commissioner appeared to share a different view regarding the UK experts.

"It was certainly a proposal that was discussed with Government about whether we should bring in specialist investigators, but in the end, we determined that we could work with the lawyers that have been appointed here locally alongside the civil process so the actual investigation is being handled by the force itself," Matthews stated.

The Auditor General's (AG) report into the Government’s financing of BVI Airway's plans for direct flights to Miami under the then National Democratic Party (NDP) administration, has laid out damning evidence.

The Auditor-General found that payments in the amount of $7.2M to the airline were made outside of the scheduled approval by the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands.

In the recommendations, the Auditor General’s report pinpointed that former Financial Secretary, Neil Smith should be required to provide answers for his apparent excesses of authority beyond Cabinet’s authorizations, including his release of $2M in January 2017 to the operating parties which may also amount to a breach of trust.

Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon. Andrew Fahie had always questioned the airline project while as Opposition Leader.

He had revealed that the two planes that were apparently purchased with taxpayer funding in 2016 were sold twice and are now operating out of Australia. Premier Fahie revealed the probe done by Martin Kenney & Co. Solicitors, uncovered that some of the major players in the failed airline were still residing in the Territory.

According to the Premier, Pauline Jones, a United Kingdom native, residing in the Territory, owns 31 percent of shares in the company. He said, another UK native, now a BVI resident, Bradley Bogen, owns another 20 percent, while a Delaware based company holds the remaining 49 per cent.

The shareholders of the US-based company, he said is alleged to be Gerry Welby and Scott Wiseman. The pair were also directors of the company, tasked with the daily running of the airline company.

The Premier had also revealed that the other directors of the airline as of 2017 were US citizen, Bruce Bradley; former BVI Government lawyer, Lester Hyman; US native, Robert Cisella, and Ryan Geluk a Canadian citizen and resident of the Territory.

He said these directors as per the investigations were to be paid $10,000 in compensation when they were appointed, and they were also entitled to $2,500 for each meeting attended.

The matter is currently in legal proceedings in New York and Washington DC involving Hyman, the government’s former attorney.

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