The UK has launched an inquiry into claims of widespread corruption and misuse of taxpayer money on the British Virgin Islands.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab announced today that British Virgin Islands governor Augustus Jaspert had called for a federal investigation into a range of claims, including “political interference and coercion in relation to appointments in the public service” and “allegations that funds set aside for struggling families during the pandemic may have been re-allocated to political allies”.
The foreign secretary also outlined concerns about government contracts not going through the proper procurement process and the “misuse of taxpayers’ money on infrastructure and transport projects”.
Raab said he was also “concerned about the potential vulnerability of the islands to serious organised crime”, after a £190m worth of cocaine was seized on the island in November.
High Court judge Sir Gary Hickinbottom will lead the commission and will report back in six months.
“Successive attempts have been made to address these concerns through local institutions, many of which have done commendable work to bring them to light,” Raab said.
“However, the scope and seriousness of the concerns are now beyond local capacity to address.
“The UK government is responsible for ensuring the security and good governance of BVI. We have a constitutional and moral duty to protect the interests of the people of BVI.”
The British Virgin Islands is a British overseas territory and is known as a tax haven for some of the country’s wealthiest people.
The islands have no capital gains tax, no inheritance tax, no corporation tax and only a very nominal income tax rate.