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Burgess claims about Governor are ‘absurd’, says Dunkley

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Butterfield Bermuda's head office on Front Street, Hamilton (Photograph supplied)

A former premier has criticised “absurd” suggestions by government MP Derrick Burgess that the alleged shutting down of Butterfield Bank accounts belonging to two Progressive Labour Party premiers had been “ordered” by London or the Governor.

Michael Dunkley, who was One Bermuda Alliance premier from 2014-2017, insisted that banks followed their own ‘know your client’ rules and regulations in such matters.

The Government has failed to comment on the situation for five days since The Royal Gazette reported Mr Burgess’s extraordinary claims to parliament.

Mr Burgess, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, provoked controversy when he claimed Butterfield Bank had terminated the accounts of four people, including two PLP premiers, without giving proper reason.

Former premier Michael Dunkley (File Picture)

The bank told The Royal Gazette it could not discuss individual client relationships, but added: “Butterfield conducts ongoing reviews of customer account balances and transactional activity to ensure compliance with applicable local and international laws and regulatory standards.

“Any decision to terminate an account is consistent with Butterfield’s general terms and conditions and within the bank’s contractual right.”

The Government was asked on a number of occasions about the veteran PLP MP’s claims – including a suggestion that such bank action could have been “ordered” by the British Foreign Office, or the Governor’s mansion in Bermuda – but has not responded.

Referring to the intervention of Mr Burgess, Mr Dunkley told The Royal Gazette: “Members of Parliament should be very careful about using the privilege of the House to get involved in judicial or private banking matters.

“It is absurd to say that the foreign office or the Governor could have been involved in this. Banks are governed by strict ‘know your client’ rules.

“I am not surprised the Government are not commenting on this – they clearly do not want to touch this with a ten-foot pole.

“He (Mr Burgess) has used parliamentary privilege to say this, without citing any facts, and when asked afterwards about it he would not elaborate.”

Mr Dunkley added: “There have been occasions when I have rolled my eyes in Parliament, and this was one of them.”

Alex Scott, who was PLP premier between 2003 and 2006, said the situation did not involve him. Attempts to contact other former premiers have been unsuccessful.

The people involved have been told their accounts will terminate on February 15, Mr Burgess said.

Neither Rena Lalgie, the Governor, nor the Foreign Office responded to requests for comment by press time.