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Sir Gary calls for investigation as gov’t statement to COI leaks

Sir Gary calls for investigation as gov’t statement to COI leaks

A government position statement leak published on an online news website yesterday prompted calls for an investigation from the head of the Commission of Inquiry, Sir Gary Hickinbottom.

The issue was first raised by COI attorney Bilal Rawat who said the leak was discovered when the COI took a lunch break on Wednesday.

Rawat said the article was published on the Julian Willock-owned Virgin Islands News Online (VINO) and is titled, “CoI document reveals ‘turf war’ between Ex-Governor Jaspert & VI Gov’t”.

The attorney said the 33-page document referenced in the article was a position statement on behalf of elected ministers filed and served with the COI on June 1, which has not yet been published by the COI.

Position statement shared with Governor’s office

Rawar said prior to this date, the document had been shared with two members of the House of Assembly (HOA) represented by the Silk Legal law firm. The document had only been shared with one other entity — the Governor’s Office, since then, Rawat said.

According to the COI lawyer, he felt the statement required further disclosure from the elected ministers. Therefore, it was sent to the Governor’s Office as that entity needed to be put on notice of the content which criticised their office.

This was also done for the Governor to make any submissions that he wishes to make, Sir Gary said.

Rawat said it was made explicit in the COI rules that all those who receive documents from the COI in the accepted manner are bound by a duty of confidentiality to the Commissioner.

“The substance of the leaked document will be the subject of this inquiry,” Sir Gary said.

Serious allegations made against past governor

He said the document contained serious allegations from government ministers that Governor Augustus Jaspert and the United Kingdom government have acted improperly, unconstitutionally, and illegally.

Sir Gary added that this was in the sense that they have acted against international law and in respect of matters of governance.

Contrary to speculation by participants of the COI and some members of the media, Sir Gary assured that he will be investigating these criticisms.

The Commissioner said this investigation must be done properly. However, he noted that both the Attorney General (AG) and ministers whose position statements were lodged had confirmed that they have no redactions before its publications.

According to Sir Gary, the position statement contains various personal information which both himself and the AG have a duty to protect. This is in addition to information the AG said may be confidential.

Breach being taken seriously

The COI issued a statement late last evening which said, the Commissioner takes the breach of confidence that has occurred “extremely seriously.”

The Commissioner further directed during the hearing that the Attorney General and the Governor’s Office provide by 9 am today a list of every person who has had access to this document. They must also provide confirmation that enquiries have been made as to who has had access to the document so as to ascertain who from that list may be responsible.

Once these have been received, the Commissioner said he will make any further enquiries that he considers appropriate.


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