Three years after his disappearance from the Turks and Caicos Islands amid a corruption scandal that forced Whitehall to suspend the British territory’s government and impose direct rule, the former premier is to return home to face prosecution.
The extradition of Michael Misick, who resigned in 2009 after a Commission of Inquiry led by a retired British judge claimed to have found “clear signs” of systemic corruption, has been approved by Brazil’s supreme federal court in Rio de Janeiro, where the islands’ former leader has been living.
His extradition comes 19 months after Interpol issued an international warrant for his arrest, in response to his failure to meet with investigators looking into allegations that the playboy premier benefited to the tune of millions of dollars from the illicit sale of Crown land in the TCI.
He was seized at Rio’s airport in December last year, attempting to board an internal flight to Sao Paulo, after making an unsuccessful application to the Brazilian government for political asylum. Britain applied for his extradition in January.
“The decision of the Brazilian Courts today to extradite Michael Misick is welcome as it is in the best interests of the TCI that allegations of wrongdoing are thoroughly investigated. Michael Misick’s lawyers vigorously opposed his extradition, but after hearing arguments on both sides the court was unanimous in its decision,” said Huw Shepheard, the islands’ attorney-general, yesterday.
“Arrangements will be made to return him to the TCI as soon as possible. He faces trial in the TCI supreme court on a number of serious charges relating to corruption and maladministration in the TCI during his time in office.”
Misick, 47, was premier of the TCI – a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean – from 2003 to 2009. The Queen is the official head of state and the governor – currently Peter Beckingham – her official representative.
Misick’s departure from office came after a commission of inquiry convened by the UK parliament reported that it had found “information in abundance pointing to a high probability of systemic corruption and/or serious dishonesty ... together with clear signs of political amorality and immaturity, and of general administrative incompetence” within the TCI government. Misick denies the accusations.
The commission recommended a criminal investigation into Misick and others, including four of his former cabinet ministers, and prompted the Foreign Office to take the drastic step of suspending parts of the territory’s constitution, dissolving its government and handing power to its then resident governor, Gordon Wetherell.
Democratic rule was restored in November last year, after Misick’s Democratic National Party, under Dr Rufus Ewing, won new elections.
Initially seen as a political star whose leadership took the TCI to new economic heights, stepping up tourism and attracting billions of dollars in investment, Misick courted suspicion and controversy with his extravagant lifestyle and business deals.
British investigators have examined tens of thousands of documents that allegedly throw light on how the man who came to office in 2003 with declared assets of just $50,000, (£31,000) amassed an estimated fortune of $180 million, toured the world on private jets, built himself a $15m mansion serviced by an army of staff who cost $500,000 a year to employ, and spent $221,000 in one year alone on water for his swimming pool.
His wife, American sitcom actress LisaRaye McCoy, from whom he is now divorced, told the inquiry that prior to their marriage, Misick regularly paid $100,000 to fly her back and forth between the islands and her Hollywood home.