British Virgin Islands

Saturday, Dec 04, 2021

Premier not seeking to justify corruption - Sir Geoffrey

Premier not seeking to justify corruption - Sir Geoffrey

Premier Andrew Fahie was in no way seeking to justify corruption when he appeared before the Commission of Inquiry (COI) recently, Sir Geoffrey Cox, QC of Withers LLP has argued.

During the hearing, Premier Fahie had suggested that various BVI governments may not always be as consistent with their approach to every policy that is implemented.

But Sir Geoffrey — who represents ministers of government on behalf of the Attorney General, Dawn Smith — interjected to suggest this was not a statement that should be taken at face value.

“[The COI has] been making criticisms on the basis of governance or potential criticisms, and that is what the Premier is suggesting. He’s not seeking to justify corruption,” Sir Geoffrey told the Commission.

According to Sir Geoffrey, Premier Fahie was simply saying that with criticisms centred around questions of governance, no government in the world – particularly the United Kingdom government – would emerge with ‘a clean bill of health’.

This was a point that Premier Fahie himself had made earlier in his evidence while arguing that the COI’s terms of reference were extremely broad since. Fahie raised concern that the COI has placed every government initiative under scrutiny.

However, Commissioner Sir Gary Hickinbottom rubbished that criticism.

“It’s simply wrong to say that we are investigating every project and every contract over the last 10 years,” Sir Gary said.

What about the governors?

As the COI examines whether any misconduct happened in public office, Sir Geoffrey said there is a role for BVI governors to play in governance. The attorney further argued that the Commission has not examined this.

He told the COI that the government felt it is under criticism for defects in governance, particularly criticisms of the way they have administered their systems and in the way they have implemented laws.

He further said these are all matters of governance that have been embedded for years and the administering state — the United Kingdom — has a responsibility.

“It (the UK through the governor) has sat in Cabinet, Sir Geoffery argued. “The Governor has sat for 20-30 years in Cabinet, seeing these decisions go past him. What have they done until last year when you were called in the midst of an obviously quite bitter and heated dispute between a Governor and a Premier?” he asked.


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