Former Cayman Islands premier charged in corruption probe

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, March 20 Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:14pm EDT

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GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, March 20 (Reuters) - Former Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush was formally charged on Wednesday in a corruption probe that led to his ouster more than three months ago as the leader of the British Caribbean territory.

Bush, a veteran politician who took office as premier in 2009, faces a total of 11 counts, including charges of misconduct in a public office, breach of trust and theft, Royal Cayman Islands Police spokeswoman Janet Dougall said in a statement.

Dougall declined to comment further. Authorities have given few specific details of the investigation.

Bush, 58, was arrested on Dec. 11 and later released on bail on allegations of theft, misuse of a government credit card and abuse of office over the alleged importation of explosives without valid permits. The explosives were to be used by a local firm in a large construction project.

Bush had been the target of graft probes for more than two years before his arrest in the Caribbean island chain, the offshore home of most of the world's hedge funds and a leading global tax haven.

The former premier has denied the accusations and claimed he is the victim of a "political witch hunt" by the island's British-appointed governor.

After Bush refused to step down from office following his arrest, members of his ruling United Democratic Party joined the opposition in removing him from office in a no confidence vote. He was replaced by current Premier Julianna O'Connor-Connolly.

Bush is scheduled to appear in court next month, Dougall said. (Writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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