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CoI Commissioner admits there is ‘suspicion’ over inquiry operations

CoI Commissioner admits there is ‘suspicion’ over inquiry operations

Sir Gary R. Hickinbottom QC, the sole United Kingdom (UK) appointed Commissioner in the Virgin Islands (VI) Commission of Inquiry (CoI), has admitted there is suspicion over the operations of the inquiry that was launched by embattled ex-governor Augustus J.U. Jaspert and sponsored by the UK Government.

His response came following more concerns raised by Attorney for the Executive, Sir C. Geoffrey Cox QC, regarding how the inquiry is set up and is being operated according to transcripts from Day 5 of the hearings by the Commission on Thursday, May 13, 2021, at the International Arbitration Centre, 3rd Floor Ritter House, Road Town, Tortola.

CoI office, servers etc based in the UK - Cox


“The office that you've set up for your Inquiry was in the Foreign Office. The server that your Inquiry is using is a Foreign Office server. The Foreign Office is a joint Data Controller of the data that you're collecting, which returns to the United Kingdom,” Cox highlighted.

In the transcripts made public on May 31, 2021, Cox also pointed to Commission Press Secretary, Mr Steven Chandler as also being from a Foreign Office, “This is not an attack. These are statements of fact,” he said regarding the points.

“Mr Chandler, your Secretary, is a Foreign Office secondee. I'm sorry, but these are realities which your Inquiry needs to be sensitive to,” he said.

Sections of VI taking notice of CoI operations - Cox


Sir Cox Continued, “I'm sure it is being so, but these are matters that have been drawn to my attention. And I think it's important that you should understand that, in parts of this island community, these things are being noted,” he said.

On the May 4, 2021, edition of the ‘Honestly Speaking’ radio show on ZBVI 780 AM, Virgin Islander and Silk Legal Attorney-at-Law, Mr Daniel F. Davies said he rejected the way the CoI was being conducted.

Mr Davies illustrated that the UK CoI being headquartered at 22 Whitehall, London in the UK; means the UK Government is in their house trying to sort out VI’s businesses from outside the territory.

Silk Legal is representing, in the CoI, Members in the House of Assembly (HoA) who are not ministers.

Security a factor in operations of CoI - CoI Commissioner


According to the May 13, 2021, CoI transcripts, Commissioner Hickinbottom moved to downplay those concerns by claiming that security was a factor in the operation of the CoI.

“In addition to those who are suspicious of the Commission of Inquiry, there are those in--no, and suspicious, not--not generally concerned, but concerned in an adverse way.”

He continued, “There are people in the territory who I have met, who have real fears about security of the Inquiry and about giving any information to the Inquiry at all because they fear discrimination and discrimination at an official level.”

Sir Hickinbottom said the location of the database was selected to ensure ‘absolutely secure’, on any information given so it remains secure and untraceable, "where the giver of the information wishes that to be so because, otherwise, these people would not come forward.”

UK's colonialist behaviour under scrutiny


Sir Cox maintained that there is an issue of perception in some quarters regarding the CoI and its 'suspicious' operations.

The attorney suggested that the inquiry is situated in the island in a manner almost like the descent from on high, a group looking into the VI and its every aspect but isn't necessarily fully understanding of the situation in the territory.

It has also been exposed in the CoI that there has been longtime tension between the governments of the VI and the UK.

The VI has often criticised the UK of trying to dictate the affairs of the VI in what is supposed to be a partnership between the two.

Attorney for the Executive, Sir C. Geoffrey Cox QC, has raised concerns regarding how the Commission of Inquiry is set up and is being operated, according to transcripts from Day 5 of the hearings by the Commission on Thursday, May 13, 2021, at the International Arbitration Centre, 3rd Floor Ritter House, Road Town, Tortola.

On the May 4, 2021, edition of the ‘Honestly Speaking’ radio show on ZBVI 780 AM, Virgin Islander and Silk Legal Attorney-at-Law, Mr Daniel F. Davies said he rejected the way the CoI was being conducted.

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