Cayman Islands' ruling party considers ousting embattled premier

Mon Dec 17, 2012 11:58am EST

* Premier arrested last week in corruption probe

* He has said he is victim of witch hunt

By Shurna Robbins

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Members of the Cayman Islands' ruling party met on Monday to debate whether to oust Premier McKeeva Bush, who was arrested last week on suspicion of corruption, party members said.

United Democratic Party leaders met late into Sunday night and resumed their meetings on Monday, according to participants who did not want to be identified.

Bush, 57, was arrested on Dec. 11 by members of the Financial Crime Unit of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. He was released on bail until February, pending the possible filing of criminal charges against him.

Authorities have declined to give specific details of the investigation but said it included allegations of theft and misuse of a government credit card.

The three-island territory has about 55,000 residents and is a global tax haven and offshore home to more than half of the world's hedge funds.

Bush, who has served as premier since 2009, has denied wrongdoing and said he had been the victim of a political witch hunt by the British-appointed colonial governor.

"The governor and my opposition have some of my people stabbing me in the back," Bush told the Cayman 27 television station on Sunday.

Steve Moore, who runs Governor Duncan Taylor's office, denied there was any political vendetta against Bush.

The governor's office said on Monday it had not received any official communication from the ruling party regarding a change in Bush's status.

Bush has faced growing pressure to resign. The opposition People's Progressive Movement had urged the head of parliament to call a special session to hear a no-confidence motion to oust the premier.

Opposition leader Alden McLaughlin said last week that allowing Bush to continue as premier after his arrest would undermine confidence in the Cayman government.

The United Democratic Party holds nine seats in the parliament, which has 15 elected members. The opposition has four seats and there are two independents. General elections are scheduled for May 22.

The territory is among the wealthiest in the Caribbean and Bush has suggested he was targeted because he was a native-born son of the Caymans and "I come from a side of the street that some of them don't like."

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Find your dream retirement town

Florida? Hawaii? Reuters has teamed up with Zillow to give you the power to customize a list of your best places to retire.  Video | Full Article