Mac kept ‘schtum’ during interview with cops

| 17/09/2014

(CNS): Following his arrest in December 2012 the then premier of the Cayman Islands exercised his right to silence when interviewed by the police. As the crown continued to present its case against Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush for the misuse of his government credit card in casinos, the jury heard Tuesday that the veteran politician told the police that he believed their investigation was a political witch-hunt designed to discredit not just him but the Cayman Islands and he wouldn’t answer their questions. Relating the narrative of the case to the court, Duncan Penny QC said that Bush had, however, spoken about the cash withdrawals publicly, claiming it was to cover security costs.

Before his arrest but after becoming aware that he was under investigation regarding his credit card use he began telling his colleagues that he had made cash withdrawals in casinos to get personal purchases of medicines and as he didn’t have PIN numbers or had problems with PINs on his own cards he had used the government card.

Penny said that Bush refused to speak with the police or answer their questions on two occasions, keeping quiet, he said, on advice of counsel. On the first occasion he said, “I am of the opinion that this is a witch-hunt designed to tarnish me and the Cayman Islands. I have done nothing wrong and I do not wish to say anything. Bush maintained the same position the following day when he was re-interviewed before being released on bail.  

After his arrest, however, he spoke publicly about the allegations. Bush said that he had used the money to pay for personal security protection when he was travelling. He said that he had been threatened and advised that when overseas he should have an armed security detail. As government was not prepared to foot the bill for that he paid for it himself but sometimes he used the government credit card to withdraw cash to pay these armed guards. He said that he did not want to give details about the people as he needed to keep that information secure.

The lawyer told the jury that it would be up to them to decide if the cash taken out on the casino floors in the middle of the night, while his loyalty cards recording him playing slot machines, was to pay unnamed guards or for gambling.

Penny said that Bush’s claim regarding the guards was never mentioned at the time he incurred the debt and he never once mentioned the gambling that he was doing at the time he was making the numerous cash withdrawals on the overseas trips. The lawyer asked the jury to consider why Bush needed to conceal the fact he was gambling if the money was being used legitimately and as he has suggested publicly since that there was no policy and “anything goes” with the government cards.

Bush had avoided talking about the gambling, Penny suggested, as he knew that what he had done was wrong because if what he was doing was above board he had no need to lie.

The lawyer recalled interviews Bush had given to the media where he made the claims about needing to finance his armed security. He then also revealed a meeting that Bush had just after his arrest and before he was ousted from office with Kenneth Jefferson, the Financial Secretary, as well Sonia McLaughlin, the chief officer in the finance ministry at the time.

Bush had called and asked Jefferson to come to his home. According to notes taken by Jefferson and a statement he gave to police, the financial secretary said Bush had given an explanation for his spending on the credit card.

He said he had bought books for his own and the cabinet office as well as crockery and that he had paid for personal security. He also told Jefferson that he had difficulty with PINs on his own cards so he couldn’t use an ATM but he could get cash easily in a casino. Although he not mentioned the gambling, he said he had since paid back all the money.

During the meeting Bush also said he wanted the financial secretary to get all of the statements and documents relating to government credit cards except for Cayman Airways and the Attorney General and the DPP.

He asked Jefferson to organize an independent review but he told the financial secretary that he did not want the office of the auditor general or the internal audit office in the Treasury to conduct the work. Instead he was to find an independent agency. Bush also told Jefferson to get together the information on the running costs of Government House and expenses for the governor and the police commissioner as well as his credit card.

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Category: Crime

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