Turks and Caicos PM quits after corruption inquiry

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The Independent US

The premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands has resigned after an investigation found “clear signs of corruption” in the British overseas territory.

Michael Misick, who denies selling Crown land for personal gain, quit a week earlier than expected. His departure follows allegations that his party misused public funds and profited from the sale of government-owned land in controversial deals, including one to build a Dubai-style luxury resort off the coast of the islands in the West Indies.

Britain plans to dissolve the territory’s cabinet and legislature following the enquiry, prompting accusations that civil servants in London failed to scrutinise a series of deals. One saw an east European oligarch acquire land worth millions of pounds for an annual rent of just £170.

The Foreign Office has said it will suspend much of the islands’ constitution and hand power to the resident British governor, Gordon Wetherell, ending Mr Misick’s six-year tenure as Premier. “I will tender my resignation, effective today, to allow the new PNP party leader to become Premier,” Mr Misick, 43, announced yesterday.

TheTurks and Caicos Islands, known as a tourist destination and offshore financial centre, lie about 600 miles south-east of Miami near the Bahamas, and have a population of 30,000.

Mr Misick, who is separated from his wife, the actress LisaRaye McCoy- Misick, lives a lavish lifestyle. He owns two private jets, wears designer suits and once claimed to have bought his wife a Rolls-Royce Phantom, which transpired to be on a £4,700-a-month lease in her name.

He says his high profile has allowed him to court property developers and put the British territory on the map. Since he took office, the islands’ gross domestic product has more than doubled to $750m, largely through a resort-building boom.

But Mr Misick’s financial dealings are also the focus of a British investigative commission which is looking into claims that his politcal colleagues misused public money and sold government land.

The commission is expected to issue a f i n a l report later this year. Mr Misick, a lawyer and property broker who was educated in London, had previously said he would step down because his administration had lost public support.

Earlier this month, Governor Wetherell said the British investigators had found “clear signs of political amorality and immaturity” in the Turks and Caicos. An order has been drafted to suspend parts of the constitution and transfer ministerial authority to him. The order will be submitted to the Queen for approval tomorrow before going before Parliament, which first reported complaints of rampant corruption in the territory.

In 2007, Mr Misick won a second four-year term as Premier after leading his Progressive National Party to victory, capturing 13 of the 15 parliamentary seats. His successor, Galmo Williams, won a three-way fight to lead thePNPthis month.