This article is not about whether or not the SIPT trial should continue as the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) office has already decided it will continue. Furthermore, I believe if people have been accused of crimes, they should face the judicial system, however, it should not cost the people millions of dollars especially in these COVID times.
This article is therefore about the funding of this case. It is interesting to note that the Commissioner Auld in his closing remarks stated that the following “The fragility and long complex jury trial e.g. see the collapse of the Jubilee Line Trial at the Central Criminal Court after many months of reported cost to the public purse of some 60million pounds.” This is interesting because this case has been going since 2008 and has cost the public purse a net of $47million
The DPP also stated the following “Although, under the policy, cost alone should not be the ground for discontinuing a prosecution, I did take it into account as a relevant factor in my overall assessment of the public interest factors.”
I agree that cost alone should not be the ground for discontinuing a prosecution but what I and most of the public want to know is how did the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) office take cost into consideration and how is the decision in the public interest when it costing the public almost $50million to date.
It is clear from the recommendations of Sir Robin, it was not intended for this case to cost the public millions. Therefore, I am recommending that UK Government fund this case from now on and reimburse the TCIG for the prior years. Ironically, based on May 2012 budget address during the interim administration, the Foreign Commonwealth Office transferred $10m to cover the SIPT and Civil Recovery cases.
On July 10, 2008, shortly before Governor Tauwhare vacated his post in the Turks and Caicos Islands, he called for a commissioner of inquiry into alleged corruption and dishonesty of past and present members of Parliament at that time. Hon. Robin Auld, QC was appointed as the Commissioner for the Inquiry. The inquiry was conducted from July 2008 to May 2009.
The Commissioner concluded with several findings and some of those findings were that there was a high level of alleged systematic corruption, there was alleged abuse of Belonger empowerment and crown land, there was deterioration of financial management and control and there was wide discretionary powers of 2016 Constitution for the Ministers.
As a result of these findings, the Commissioner recommended criminal investigation of past ministers and others at that time. He also recommended partial suspension of the 2006 Constitution, direct rule by the UK, trial by judge alone and special recovery of assets.
SIPT (Special Investigation Prosecution Team) and Civil Recovery Costs
The SIPT was set up in March 2010 and the trial by judge started on December 8, 2015 against several ministers and their relatives. The Judge died on February 7 and the trial came to an end. The DPP has brought new charges and have decided to retry this case against the defendants.
Based on information from the Turks and Caicos Islands Government, the expenditure on the SIPT and the Civil Recovery cost the people about $91m. There were recovery revenues of $44million so the net cost to the people to date is $47million.
Expenditure 2010/11 to 2020/21
SIPT legal aid 23,097, 836
SIPT 43,697, 392
Civil Recovery 24, 132, 090
Recovery 43, 818, 831
Net expenditure amount 47, 108,487
Alleged bribery and dishonesty amounts
Based on my reading the enquiry and the SIPT charges, the total alleged bribery and dishonesty amounted to close $25m as depicted below.
Donations from developers 1,200,000
Land ownership deals 15,400,000
Finders fee 361,000
Use of aircraft 6,000,000
Other donations 300,000
I recall many years ago, I met someone from the Foreign Commonwealth Office and he stated that TCI caused this and therefore TCIG should bore the responsibility. However, the UK provides funding to many independent countries especially in times of needs. In fact, the UK provided $10 million in the early part of the trial as the country was in a bad financial condition. This is 2021 and our country continues to suffer from the impact of COVID 19. Even if we are not suffering from COVID 19, the UK should bear some responsibility for the cost. To date, we have a net spending of $47million on alleged corruption of $25million.
If the UK really cared, they would assist us with the funding and this is something I believe the people of the Turks and Caicos should demand. This is also something that the DPP office should recommend as what they are doing now is in not in the best interest of the Turks and Caicos from a financial point of view.