WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11 UPDATE: Former Premier Ewart Brown yesterday demanded that the UK government censure Governor Sir Richard Gozney over his handling of corruption allegations made against him.
Dr Brown said his legal team had written to UK Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham asking that Britain investigate Sir Richard’s handling of a row over forged cheques designed to look like kickbacks to Dr Brown and Government Minister Derrick Burgess.
But last night Sir Richard rebutted the allegations — and said that the police and the Canadian authorities should be allowed to exercise their authority without interference.
Dr Brown said: “As the constitutionally-designated defender of Bermuda, Governor Gozney should have seen to it that the people who sought to perpetrate such a crime would be hunted to the ends of the earth.”
But he added that the Governor had “washed his hands of it” when he could have called in detectives from London’s Scotland Yard and that he could have made direct contact with Canada or asked the Foreign Office to do it.
Dr Brown also criticized the handling of allegations made in court by David Bolden last year. Bolden and wife Antoinette, convicted of misleading the BMA, were cleared of theft and money-laundering charges.
Dr Brown said: “Last year the Commissioner of Police, appointed by the Governor, initiated a criminal investigation into supposed ‘corruption’ following unsubstantiated claims by … David Bolden in which he accused me of having had corrupt dealings with him.
“Six months later, the Commissioner stated that he had found no evidence to support a criminal prosecution.”
But Dr Brown said Sir Richard had done “nothing” to “reassure people at home and abroad that Bermuda’s reputation was untarnished”.
The letter to Mr Bellingham from London QC Courtenay Griffiths added that Dr Brown wanted Britain to ask Canada for “full cooperation” in investigating the forged cheques.
And he said that the Governor should be disciplined for failing to adequately protect the reputations of Bermuda, its Government, Dr Brown and Mr Burgess.
And the letter called for the UK to ensure there is “no repetition of such behaviour”.
Dr Brown said his decision to grant asylum to four Uyghurs, part of a Chinese Muslim ethnic group who had been detained by US forces in Guantanamo Bay as suspected terrorists, had infuriated the British – and the Governor.
He added he had been “berated” for the decision by the UK Government's Chris Bryant on a trip to London after the deal with the US was struck.
Dr Brown said: “I think there is a lingering British resentment towards me and I believe that’s played a part in what’s happened.”
The accusations came as Sir Richard prepares to quit his post in Bermuda and retire from the Foreign Office.
Sir Richard said last night it would be “unprofessional” to feel “personal” animus towards Dr Brown.He added: “Yes, the two cheques were palpable forgeries. They look to have been malicious.
“Bermuda’s law and order authorities did a thorough investigation and concluded that no one in Bermuda could be charged with an offence likely to lead to a conviction. That, I think, is a standard test of whether to charge.
“Most unusually, and with my support, the police file was sent by Bermuda’s prosecutors to the Canadian authorities for them to judge whether a crime might have been committed within their jurisdiction.
“Criminality in Canada is a matter for the sovereign authorities of Canada and we must leave them to exercise their sovereignty as they think fit.
“As for Mr Bolden’s allegations in court of corruption, for my part I will let the Bermuda police complete their investigation. I will not pre-empt them.
“The police have agreed that if the investigation does not unearth evidence which would support charges, the police will say so, publicly and clearly.”
Dr Brown also criticized an Auditor General’s report released earlier this year, which said a Cabinet decision to pay for a civil action in Canada against a Canadian architect and former Bermuda Government employee in connection with the forged cheques was a “misuse of public funds.”
He added that an “assignment of interest” declaring that neither he or Mr Burgess, in whose names the action was taken, would profit from the $4 million action if it was successful could have been supplied if it had been asked for.
He added the legal action was “in train and proceeding and there is no intention of letting up”, despite a Government decision to withdraw financial backing for the court action.
No one from the London HQ of the Foreign Office was available for comment last night.