We are delighted to have been successful in obtaining judgment in the claim against Richardson Arthur.
This is another substantial judgment for the civil recovery team, at $1.35m (less $200,000 already paid to the Turks and Caicos Islands Government by Mr Arthur) plus more than five year’s interest.
The claim arose out of a serious case of land ‘flipping’ which took place in 2008; Mr Arthur acquired a piece of Crown land for $50,000 and then almost immediately sold it on for development for $1.35m.
We welcome the Judge’s finding that McAllister Hanchell, then Minister of Natural Resources, breached his fiduciary duties as Minister by directing the use of an out of date valuation (paragraph 58) in connection with the sale; and that he also exceeded his delegated authority to transfer Crown land and abused his position in order to convey the freehold title to Mr Arthur (paragraph 59).
We also welcome the finding that Mr Arthur knew that the transfer to him on the beneficial terms that Mr Hanchell directed was wrong (paragraph 84).
Judgment in this claim is an important milestone in the civil recovery programme. It demonstrates that a serious abuse occurred in the management of Crown land, the Turks and Caicos Islands’ prime asset.
We are very pleased that this abuse has been dealt with by the Courts. It also adds significantly to the judgments obtained by the Civil Recovery team.
Following Sir Robin Auld’s Commission of Inquiry in 2008-09, which found a high likelihood of corruption amongst TCI politicians, officials and developers, civil and criminal investigations and prosecutions were recommended.
Since April 2013, the Civil Recovery team has obtained judgments and cash recoveries of nearly $4m alone, as well as recovering nearly 600 acres of land. To date they have obtained cash and judgment orders or agreements to pay totalling over $23.3m, and have recovered nearly 3,100 acres of land which has been, or is being, re-registered as Crown land.
Criminal trials of 10 people are due to start in July 2014, and an eleventh person has pled guilty and will be sentenced in January 2014. Brazil has agreed to extradite former TCI Premier Michael Misick to the Territory to face charges. A further three persons have been charged, with three others having their criminal proceedings recorded as nolle prosequi and entered into civil recovery orders instead. These have seen nearly $19m in cash and assets returned to the TCI taxpayer.
We have also received and are reviewing the judgment in the claim against Clyde Robinson and his former wife, Susannah Bishop. We are disappointed not to have also been successful in that claim. Like the Arthur case this also involved the acquisition of a piece of Crown land (adjacent to that acquired by Mr Arthur) by Mr Robinson, who transferred it to his then wife, who then sold it for $1.5m to the same developer as Mr Arthur.
Again we welcome the Judge’s finding that McAllister Hanchell breached his fiduciary duties by directing the use of an out of date valuation (paragraph 64); it is, however surprising that the Judge found that Mr Robinson’s conduct was not unconscionable, nor was it a breach of his own fiduciary duties as a senior Government official.
We are troubled by those findings and we will be considering the judgment carefully and whether we should appeal.