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Page last updated at 23:13 GMT, Monday, 30 January 2012
Why is construction firm Johnston controversial?

Michael Misick, former TCI Premier
The former premier's White House mansion is at the centre of controversy

With its palatial pillars and marble floors, the White House seemed to symbolise the confidence and affluence of a rapidly developing Caribbean country.

But the boom on the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) has turned to a spectacular bust and the White House is up for sale after its owner, the former Premier Michael Misick, left the country.

Mr Misick presided over the breakneck expansion of the islands - a British overseas territory - after coming to power in 2003.

He wanted his country to become the Monte Carlo of the Caribbean and developers flocked to TCI to cash in.

But Mr Misick resigned in 2009 following allegations that he and some of his fellow ministers were running a corrupt regime.

They have been accused of corruption on a massive scale - ranging from the misuse of public money to taking bribes from overseas developers and investors.

The islands are now being run by the Foreign Office from London and British detectives are investigating the corruption allegations.

Finance questions

They have frozen all of Mr Misick's assets, including the White House. The police want to know how a former estate agent, who had little apparent wealth when he came to power, could afford such an expensive home.

The White House was built in 2006 by Johnston International and most of the cash came from another company in the Johnston group.

It loaned Mr Misick $4.72m (£3.01m) to build his home, but the police have not found any evidence he ever paid anything back.

Turks and Caicos Islands
TCI is being run by the Foreign Office in London

British detectives are now looking at the role Johnston played in the construction of the White House.

Johnston International closed down in June 2010 with debts of around $30m (£19m).

BBC Panorama has alleged that Conservative Peer Lord Ashcroft concealed his continuing involvement in Johnston International after he announced the sale of the firm in 1999.

In response, Lord Ashcroft said he has had no "economic beneficial or legal interest" in the firm since he sold it in 1999.

His lawyers also said he has nothing to do with the building and financing of Mr Misick's mansion.

They said: "Our client has no involvement in this, and cannot understand why it has been put to him for comment."

There is no suggestion that Lord Ashcroft is corrupt. But Panorama believes there are grounds to investigate whether through his continuing involvement in Johnston he played a part in decisions about the building and financing of the White House.

Lord Ashcroft is currently suing the Independent newspaper for libel after it ran a story linking him to Johnston and the Misick house.

Both parties are due back in court for legal argument about the case on 1 February.

Panorama: Secrets of the Tory Billionaire, BBC One, Monday, 30 January at 20:30 GMT and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.



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