Page last updated at 22:22 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Turks and Caicos PM resigns early

Turks and Caicos premier Michael Misick
Mr Misick is alleged to have built up a multi-million dollar fortune

The premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands has resigned after a probe found "clear signs" of corruption in the UK overseas territory, reports say.

Michael Misick, who has denied claims of selling Crown land for personal gain, will stand down a week early, according to the AP news agency.

The Foreign Office has said it will suspend much of the Turks' constitution and hand power over to the governor.

The West Indies territory is a leading offshore financial centre.

'Serious dishonesty'

Mr Misick, who previously promised to resign on 31 March, is alleged to have built up a multi-million dollar fortune since coming to power in 2003.

He was quoted by AP as saying that he was standing down early to allow his successor more time to form an administration - despite the announcement by the UK government that it will dissolve the territory's cabinet and legislature.

This followed an interim report by a Commission of Inquiry - led by a retired British judge - which pointed to the "high probability of systemic corruption" in its administration.

It found "information in abundance pointing to a high probability of systematic corruption or serious dishonesty".

It also concluded there were "clear signs of political amorality and immaturity and of a general administrative incompetence".

Turks and Caicos Islands
The Governor will take control of the islands if the move is approved by MPs

In a written statement to UK MPs on 16 March, Foreign Office Minister Gillian Merron said a draft order would be put to the Westminster Parliament in the near future seeking a suspension of parts of the islands' constitution and transferring powers to Governor Gordon Wetherell.

Mr Wetherell succeeded Richard Tauwhare in 2008.

Mr Tauwahre instigated the inquiry, but was criticised by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee for not acting sooner to tackle what it said last year was "a climate of fear" on the islands.

Thousands of foreign companies are registered in the islands, which have a population of about 30,000.

Once a dependency of Jamaica, the islands become a crown colony when Jamaica gained its independence in 1962.

Residents of the islands have British citizenship.

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