Nearly two years after criminal charges were brought against several former government ministers in a political corruption scandal in the Turks and Caicos Islands, a judge in the British dependent territory’s high court set a trial date Monday.
Justice Paul Harrison said the criminal trial on corruption-related charges against 11 individuals including four former government ministers would start July 7, 2014. The islands are located 575 miles southeast of Miami, and are a popular tourist spot with U.S. celebrities, several of whom own homes there.
In 2009, retired British judge Sir Robert Auld, heading a commission of inquiry, concluded there was “a high probability of systematic corruption and/or other serious dishonesty,” in the Turks and Caicos. Auld also criticized the high-flying lifestyles of government officials including former Premier Michael Misick, who is currently in custody in Brazil and fighting extradition.
The British $11-million-a year-investigation has been aided by the U.S. Department of Justice. Investigators have combed through tens of thousands of pages of evidence as part of their case against Misick and four of his ministers. Among their findings: suspicious land deals, unpaid government bills and possible fraud, bribery and money laundering.
Lawyers also have recovered 3,000 acres of ill-gotten government-owned land worth $100 million, along with $20 million in cash, the islands’ former British-appointed governor Ric Todd told the Miami Herald last week.
On Monday, attorneys acting on behalf of a majority of the defendants sought to delay the trial until late 2014. But the prosecution told Harrison that it could go to trial as early as January. Criminal charges were first issued in the case in November 2011.
Harrison ordered a hearing for Jan. 6, 2014, and then the trial in July.