Cayman premier released on bail for 2 months

The leader of the Cayman Islands was released on bail Wednesday until early next year after being interviewed by police investigators for a second straight day in a corruption probe that has rocked the Caribbean tax haven.

Premier McKeeva Bush was granted bail until early February to "allow further investigations to take place both here and abroad in connection with the allegations made against him," the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said.

No charges have been filed against the top politician in the three-island British Caribbean territory. Government ministers who met with Bush at his West Bay home have not commented about the government's plans for the future, although Deputy Premier Julianna O'Connor-Connolly said the ruling party understands the "gravity of the matter."

There has been a growing call for Bush to step down amid the investigation. In an editorial, the Caymanian Compass newspaper argued that the premier's arrest was a "national embarrassment" that will erode investor confidence.

"Mr. Bush must not only step down as premier, he must also step down from his Cabinet position because he should not be in a position to dictate national policy for the country after his arrest," the newspaper said Wednesday, a day after an advocacy group for good government called for Bush to resign.

Bush's arrest has been the talk of the Cayman Islands, where zero direct taxation, financial secrecy and global money have transformed the tiny British territory into the world's sixth-largest financial center, with roughly $1.6 trillion in officially booked international assets.

Scant details of the allegations against Bush have been publicly disclosed. Police have said only that the 57-year-old is being investigated for possible misuse of his government credit card and abusing his office and public trust by importing explosive devices without valid permits.

Wednesday's police statement said the probes into the cases allegedly involving Bush remain "very active." They said investigators seized a "considerable amount of property, including computer equipment" during Tuesday searches on the main island of Grand Cayman.

Opposition leader Alden McLaughlin told the TV station Cayman 27 that the premier's arrest was a "huge body blow to Cayman and its credibility," while some business leaders said it clearly demonstrated that the territory had robust anti-corruption practices.

Bush was arrested Tuesday morning by police at his home in West Bay, a populous district on Grand Cayman and the political leader's powerbase.

Police in the offshore finance haven revealed last April that they had been investigating allegations of financial irregularities involving Bush since late 2010. Bush has said he has done nothing wrong and called the investigations politically motivated.

Bush has been the British territory's premier since his United Democratic Party won the 2009 elections. He wields great power within the territory because he is in charge of finance, tourism and development as well as being head of government. Bush is the islands' longest serving member of the Legislative Assembly, having first been elected in 1984.

A second man who was arrested in connection with the investigations involving Bush also received bail until February, according to police.

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David McFadden on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dmcfadd

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