Embattled Cayman Islands premier ousted in no-confidence vote

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands Tue Dec 18, 2012 5:44pm EST

The entrance to the home of Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush after investigators searched inside for evidence of economic crimes, in Georgetown December 11, 2012. REUTERS/Shurna Robbins

The entrance to the home of Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush after investigators searched inside for evidence of economic crimes, in Georgetown December 11, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Shurna Robbins

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GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (Reuters) - Lawmakers in the Cayman Islands passed a vote of no confidence on Tuesday ousting embattled Premier McKeeva Bush from office one week after he was arrested on suspicion of corruption.

Members of parliament voted 11 to 3 with one abstention to remove Bush as the head of government in the British territory, which is a major financial center, offshore home to more than half of the world's hedge funds, and a leading global tax haven.

British-appointed Governor Duncan Taylor was expected to announce on Wednesday whether he would appoint a new premier or dissolve parliament and call early elections. Elections had previously been set for May.

Bush, a veteran politician who became premier in 2009, has denied any wrongdoing and dismissed calls to resign as premier of the Caribbean island chain after his arrest.

However, support within his own party began to dwindle in the days following his detention.

Five lawmakers from Bush's United Democratic Party joined the opposition in calling for the no-confidence vote, which needed support from 10 lawmakers in the 15-member Legislative Assembly to force Bush from office.

Bush, 57, was arrested on December 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.

Bush, who has been the target of corruption probes for more than a year, has said he is the victim of a "political witch hunt" mounted by Taylor and other opponents. British officials have denied the claims.

Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin said last week that allowing Bush to continue as premier after his arrest would undermine confidence in the Cayman Islands, a three-island territory with about 55,000 residents.

(Writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Jane Sutton, Will Dunham and Paul Simao)

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