TORTOLA — With the commission of inquiry’s report due this month into allegations of corruption in the British Virgin Islands government, Prime Minister Andrew Fahie’s office has approved an additional $1.2 million for its defense, bringing the total to $6.2 million.
According to a Cabinet briefing, at its February 23 meeting, members decided on the extended deal with British law firm Withers LLP. The law firm’s contract has been extended for three months – from March 1 to May 31, 2022 – to represent the government, working with the local attorney general’s office.
Based on discussions at the briefing, the cost of the contract cannot exceed $1.2 million and that funding be approved at the first sitting of the House of Assembly on Thursday.
When the commission began in January 2020, the BVI government set a cap of $5 million for its defense, and in an August 2021 House of Assembly meeting, Fahie revealed at the time that over $3 million had already been spent.
The BVI government was represented by British MP Sir Geoffrey Cox QC of Withers LLP. Cox, 61, was the subject of a November 10 article in The Guardian, which noted that he had been “charged with breaking (House of Commons) rules, after footage emerged showing him representing the British Virgin Islands in a corruption case of what appears to be his parliamentary office.
The Guardian further noted that the Cox could be heard apologizing for having been absent for part of the hearing held in September, due to “other binding commitments”.
The newspaper also noted that House of Commons rules prohibit MPs from using parliamentary resources to serve private clients and that Cox earned more than $1.5 million during the year for legal work. , including that of the BVI government.
The investigation was launched in January 2021 by former Governor Augustus Jaspert. A report was due to be completed by July 18, 2021. However, due to the volume of documents, an extension was granted. The commission, led by Sir Gary Hickinbottom, wrapped up work in November to prepare the report for presentation this month to Governor John Rankin, who in January granted a three-month extension.