Monday, March 23, 2009

Britain Moves to Take control over Turks and Caicos Islands

Britain moved Monday to restore direct rule to the Turks and Caicos Islands, its overseas territory near the Bahamas, after an investigation found evidence of systemic corruption.

London has drawn up legislation that, if approved by parliament, would strip the territory's cabinet and elected assembly of their powers under a 2006 constitution and put the British-appointed governor in control.

A probe was launched last July into allegations of corruption in land sales, distribution of government contracts and development deals and the granting of voting rights, and misuse of public funds. Preliminary findings published Monday pointed to a "high probability of systemic corruption or other serious dishonesty" among the ruling elite, British junior foreign minister Gillian Merron told lawmakers in London.

The islands have been at one point part of the Bahamas and of Jamaica, but were granted their own governor in 1973. About 32,000 people live on the territory, many of them British citizens, and it derives most of its income from tourism and as a tax haven.

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