British Virgin Islands

Friday, Dec 03, 2021

Protracted delays in gov’t affidavit submissions continue to plague COI

Protracted delays in gov’t affidavit submissions continue to plague COI

Protracted delays in the submission of affidavits to the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (COI) have continued to hamper its progress, officials have said.

At a directions hearing held yesterday, COI attorney, Bilal Rawat spoke about repeated failures of the government to meet deadlines and extensions to those deadlines in submitting affidavits they were asked to complete.

He referenced at least two recent incidents where persons designated to appear before the COI in the coming days, only just submitted their affidavits days earlier.

Rawat has repeatedly stated that such delays continue to undermine his team’s ability to properly prepare for the hearings and puts the COI’s hearing timetable at risk, as a result.

In one particular incident, Rawat noted that Financial Secretary, Jeremiah Frett only submitted his affidavit last Friday evening – this was despite the affidavit being sworn since August 26, 2021.

Affidavits from Carolyn O’Neal Morton and Tasha Bertie – both Permanent Secretaries within the government – were also not received until late Sunday night, September 5, Rawat revealed.

Delays can’t be allowed to continue

Rawat said he felt that with the COI’s break for the summer, the longstanding issues of continued delays in the submission of affidavits might have been rectified.

But this was not the case.

The attorney said the COI has reached a stage where delays of this sort cannot be allowed to continue.

“The situation we have reached, it is and can properly be said, to be an unhappy one,” Rawat said.

The government’s explanation

But according to government-hired attorney, Hussein Haeri, who appeared on behalf of Attorney General Dawn Smith yesterday, many of the affidavits requested by the COI are quite exhaustive and amounted to thousands of pages for a single affidavit in some instances.

Haeri said many persons have also received multiple affidavit requests, often with the same deadline.

Responses to the affidavits, he further explained, has required enormous efforts on the part of ministers, public officials, and the government-established Inquiry Response Unit (IRU).


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