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Ex-Turks and Caicos premier loses bid to toss US$100m graft case

[PROVIDENCIALES] A former Turks and Caicos premier who allegedly funded his playboy lifestyle by selling off chunks of the islands has lost a bid to have the US$100 million corruption case thrown out.

Attorneys for nine defendants including ex-premier Michael Misick and four of his one-time cabinet ministers had urged the judge to dismiss the case, claiming insufficient evidence.

But in a hearing at the Supreme Court in Providenciales on Monday, Judge Paul Harrison declared there was indeed a case for them to answer.

The proceedings officially opened in December 2015 and were expected to last just six months, but have dragged on.

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They followed a commission of inquiry initiated by London in 2008 that brought to light a litany of allegedly crooked dealings in the territory 1,000km southeast of Miami.

Much of it relates to under-the-table transactions with foreign developers seeking to build resorts during a period of unprecedented investment in the run-up to the 2008 global financial crash.

Swathes of government land were apparently sold to local people at special discounted rates, then again to investors at market rates, with defendants pocketing the difference.

Misick's own colourful lifestyle and extravagant spending on everything from luxurious yacht charters to private jets and personal stylists have been the focus of much of the attention.

When he appeared in court Monday, Misick was a subdued version of the flamboyant leader once nicknamed 'Iron Mike' on account of his tough, unyielding demeanor.

Like his co-defendants, Misick has been present almost daily at the trials now in their fourth year.

Misick has long maintained the trials are politically motivated by Britain due to his plans to lead the archipelago to independence.

Prosecutors claim Misick spent US$23,000 on a wardrobe stylist, US$110,000 for a boat charter for his then wife, actress LisaRaye McCoy and her friends, and a further US$150,000 on furnishings in the newly-built Misick mansion.

The lengthy proceedings have racked up a bill to the territory's public purse of almost US$100 million.

Current Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson has repeatedly demanded Britain share the costs, but London has remained adamant that UK taxpayers will not bear the burden of the territory's mistakes.

AFP