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British Virgin Islands should be temporarily returned to UK rule, inquiry says

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The British Virgin Islands should have its constitution suspended, its elected government dissolved and effectively be ruled from London, according to a highly critical inquiry into governance in the British overseas territory released on Friday.

Queen Elizabeth's representative on the island, Governor John Rankin, had ordered the inquiry in 2021 to investigate "the corruption, abuse of office, and other serious dishonesty" in the territory's governance.

Its report found that millions of dollars of state funds were spent each year by politicians and ministries without proper process, along with serious dishonesty in relation to sales of public property and widespread abuse of appointments.

The report is not directly linked to the arrest on Thursday of the islands' elected premier, Andrew Fahie, on charges of money laundering and conspiring to import cocaine. But British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the arrest demonstrated the importance of the Commission's work.

The inquiry was led by British judge Gary Hickinbottom.

"He has concluded with a particularly heavy heart that unless the most drastic and urgent steps are taken, the current situation with elected officials deliberately ignoring the tenets of good governance will go on indefinitely," Mr Rankin told a news conference.

"He notes that the people of the BVI deserve better, and that the UK government owes them an obligation to protect them from such abuses and assist them to achieve their aspirations for self-government as a modern democratic state."

Any decision to suspend parts of the constitution would fall to the British government, which said it was sending a minister to the BVI before announcing a path forward.

In a statement, Ms Truss said that the report "shows clearly that substantial legislative and constitutional change is required to restore the standards of governance that the people of the British Virgin Islands are entitled to".

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