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Commission findings prompt fresh lines of inquiry

The findings of the Commission of Inquiry have prompted police to look into “new areas of inquiry” about how public money was handled under the last Progressive Labour Party government.

A spokesman for the Bermuda Police Service told this newspaper that the fresh lines of inquiry were in addition to “some active police investigations” already under way before the panel made its referrals to the Commissioner of Police.

No details were given about the nature of the new inquiries or when they might conclude.

The spokesman, in response to questions, said: “The Bermuda Police Service is conducting inquiries into the areas that were highlighted by the Commission of Inquiry into the Report of the Auditor-General on the Consolidated Fund of the Government of Bermuda 2010 to 2012.

“The COI found evidence of ‘possible criminal activity’ in seven named historical government projects and referred the matters to the police for investigation. “The COI report accurately stated some active police investigations were already under way. A number of new areas of inquiry were identified by the COI, all of which will be investigated. The timings and progress for all investigations will vary from case to case and it is not appropriate at this stage to comment on which cases will be first to conclude.”

The four-person commission, chaired by British judge Sir Anthony Evans, was tasked with investigating the misuse of public funds from 2009 to 2012, under the PLP government. The panel also looked at the new airport deal, under the One Bermuda Alliance.

The commission’s report, released in March, outlined “numerous violations” of official financial rules during the 2009 to 2012 timeframe, some of which were “serious and persistent”.

It identified seven Bermuda Government business dealings where there was evidence of “possible criminal activity”.

The COI’s terms of reference required it to refer any such evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the police.

Five projects related to former premier and tourism minister Ewart Brown, three were connected to former works and engineering minister Derrick Burgess and one involved OBA senator Vic Ball, when the latter was a purchasing officer at Works and Engineering.

The report revealed that existing police investigations were already under way into five tourism contracts, as well as the contract to build the Dame Lois Browne-Evans court and police building signed by Mr Burgess, while he was works minister. The commission suggested that those inquiries should continue and recommended that police and the DPP also look into the 2009 contract involving Mr Ball.

The senator, who has now left the Civil Service, failed to disclose to works and engineering permanent secretary Robert Horton that he had a “serious conflict of interest” when a company co-owned by his father was bidding for, and later won, a contract to purchase sand and rock.

“We consider that this matter should be investigated by the police and the DPP, but we do not make that finding as regards Mr Robert Horton,” said the commissioners.

Mr Ball remained in the Upper Chamber after the COI’s report was released, with Michael Dunkley, the Premier, telling the media in May that the senator was “not under criminal investigation”.

Mr Burgess, the PLP MP for Hamilton East, is running for re-election on July 18, against the OBA’s Peter Barrett.

The commission found “no evidence of possible criminal activity” in relation to the airport project.

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Sir Anthony Evans, one of the members of the Commission of Inquiry (Photograph supplied)