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May 1, 2017

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Ex-Caymans premier charged in corruption probe, released on bail

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- An ousted former premier of the Cayman Islands was charged Wednesday in a corruption investigation, and his splintered political party pledged to stand behind him as May elections approach.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service announced that McKeeva Bush was charged with five counts of theft, four counts of breach of trust and two counts of misconduct in public office. He was released on bail and is due to appear in the British Caribbean territory's Grand Court next month.

In December, governing party, opposition and independent lawmakers voted to oust Bush as the islands' premier in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence a week after his arrest on suspicion of theft related to misuse of a government credit card and other allegations. He remained a lawmaker representing West Bay as well as leader of the United Democratic Party after most of his colleagues quit the party and formed a minority government.

With parliamentary elections scheduled in less than two months, the United Democratic Party (UDP) said it was "proud to have Mr. Bush as its party leader." He is the islands' longest-serving politician, having first been elected in 1984, and wielded great power within the territory.

"I have done nothing illegal and will defend every one of these charges," Bush said in a statement issued by the party.

During a visit to neighboring Jamaica in December, Bush called Britain-appointed Gov. Duncan Taylor his "enemy" and said the police investigation was orchestrated by "jealous" political foes.

Juliana O'Connor-Connolly, who was named as the islands' premier a day after Bush's ouster, could not be reached for comment. She has led a minority government since the UDP splintered during the debate over Bush.

Last month, police said their investigations into Bush were "very active" and involved a number of foreign jurisdictions, including locations in the United States, Europe and Asia.

The Cayman Islands is the world's sixth largest financial center and a major haven for mutual funds and private equity.

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