LONDON, England, Tues. Jan. 19, 2021 (Reuters) – Britain is very concerned about governance in the British Virgin Islands, a British Overseas Territory, foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Monday, adding that there were concerns about its susceptibility to organized crime.
The British Virgin Islands (BVI) is located in the Caribbean to the east of Puerto Rico. A remnant of British empire, the territory operates a parliamentary democracy and is self-governing.
A governor appointed by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth has oversight of external affairs, defence, internal security, administration of the courts, the public service, elections, and disaster preparedness.
“The UK is extremely concerned about the state of good governance in the British Virgin Islands,” Raab said in a written statement to parliament.
“A consistent and deeply troubling array of concerns have been put to the Governor by local institutions and the community.”
Raab listed several concerns, including misappropriation of funds set aside to cope with the pandemic, political interference in public appointments, intimidation of people in public service and misuse of taxpayers’ money.
He also said there was a “potential vulnerability of the islands to serious organised crime”, citing a November 2020 discovery of a 2.35 tonne haul of cocaine worth more than $250 million.
Raab said an independent commission of inquiry had been set up to “inquire into whether there is information to substantiate claims that corruption, abuse of position and serious impropriety has taken place in public office in recent years.”
The commission led by British judge Gary Hickinbottom would report back within six months, Raab said.
(Reporting by Costas Pitas, writing by William James; editing by Sarah Young)