The Turks and Caicos Weekly News has recently reported that the UK’s Minister for the Overseas Territories, Baroness Anelay, wrote to the Governor of the Turks & Caicos Islands (Mr. Peter Beckingham) on 13 September instructing him under Section 3(4) of the TCI Chief Financial Officer Ordinance 2012 to direct the Chief Financial Officer to make the necessary arrangements for the budget allocation, primarily for legal aid for the defendants in the SIPT trial, as requested by the Chief Justice, to be made available.
The SIPT and civil recovery process records indicate that the cost of the investigation and trial has amounted to some $36 million to date.
The UK Government’s decision was shortly followed by a complaint from the Premier of the Turks & Caicos Islands, Rufus Ewing, regarding the UK’s imposition of a Chief Financial Officer on the jurisdiction. As reported by the Turks and Caicos Weekly News, Premier Ewing has publicly argued that “In addition to authorizing the spending of millions of dollars to the benefit of a UK initiated legal trial and investigation team, for which there is no accountability, an undertaking with no end in sight, the CFO has denied and delayed major policy initiatives and decisions of the duly elected government with no regard as to the far-reaching implications for the livelihood of our people and our businesses“.
Readers interested in the Special Investigation and Prosecution team’s extracurricular activities will no doubt already be aware that Robert Rinder of 2 Hare Court, an active member of the SIPT team as recently as 2014, has become a media celebrity in the UK, with his TV appearances as Judge Rinder and on Strictly Come Dancing.
On his Chambers’ website, Mr. Rinder appears to be a more serious figure, at least when it comes to issues of Turks & Caicos law. His profile describes his experience thus: “Since 2010, and whilst maintaining his UK practice, Robert has been instructed by HM Government as counsel to the Turks and Caicos Islands’ Special Investigation and Prosecution Team, established by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to prosecute allegations of bribery, international corruption and fraud. Offences which, it is alleged, were committed by former members of the TCI’s legislature and also by corporate defendants. The investigation has resulted in the suspension of the TCI’s Constitution and the imposition of direct rule from London.”