SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The attorney general of the Turks and Caicos Islands has submitted his resignation following a feud with the premier of the British territory, officials announced Wednesday.
Huw Shepheard has been overseeing a lengthy investigation into corruption on the island, which was put under three years of direct rule from Britain starting in 2009 after a commission found systematic corruption.
He was appointed in 2010 by the island's governor, who in turn is appointed by the queen of England. But Shepheard has clashed repeatedly with Premier Rufus Ewing, who was elected when home rule returned in 2012 and does not control the attorney general's post.
Ewing has accused Shepheard of incompetence and unchecked spending. Shepheard said in a statement that he will bring legal action for damage to his reputation and other charges. Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, leader of the opposition People's Democratic Movement party, said in a phone interview that she had hoped the issue would be resolved amicably.
"This is not a positive step for the country at this time," she said. "The Turks and Caicos is going through a very difficult time already. To add this to it ... it costs us not just our reputation, but it costs us financially."
The office of Gov. Peter Beckingham declined comment except to say the corruption probe will continue and that officials will soon find a new attorney general. Shepheard's resignation becomes effective on Friday.
The announcement comes just a couple of months after the governor extended Shepheard's contract to September 2016 over protests by Ewing and other politicians. In a statement earlier this month, Ewing said he was not satisfied with Shepheard's performance.
"We as a Government are being asked to cut expenditure and finding it difficult to provide funding for scholarships for our children, to provide adequate space in our schools and to create jobs for our people, whilst expenditure in the areas of the attorney general's responsibility goes unchecked," Ewing said.
The feud developed as the British territory seized money and property that officials say were improperly obtained by corrupt politicians. Authorities so far have recovered more than $20.5 million in cash and more than 3,000 acres (1,200 hectares) of government property they say was illegally sold or bought. The property is worth more than $100 million.
The island's former premier, Michael Misick, has also been a target of the investigation. On Tuesday, a Brazilian court ordered his extradition. He was arrested there last year on a warrant issued by Interpol.