Latin America & Caribbean

Turks and Caicos ex-PM Michael Misick held in Brazil

Michael Misick arrested in Rio Image copyright Policia Federal
Image caption Federal Police arrested Mr Misick at Rio's Santos Dumont airport

Police in Brazil have arrested the former prime minister of the Turks and Caicos islands, Michael Misick.

He fled the British overseas territory in the Caribbean in 2009, after an official inquiry uncovered evidence of systematic corruption.

The British government has confirmed it will now seek his extradition.

He is one of six ex-ministers facing charges and has previously denied wrongdoing. The government allegedly made millions selling Crown land.

Mr Misick, who was arrested at Rio de Janeiro's domestic airport, is accused of masterminding the biggest corruption scheme in the history of the territory.

The UK imposed direct rule in 2009, after the official inquiry implicated the islands' government.

The British government had to issue a $260m loan guarantee to prop up the local economy, which was already struggling to cope with the damage caused by hurricane Ike and the global financial crisis.

'Sophisticated life'

The Turks and Caicos administration had allegedly made millions of pounds in illegal profits by selling Crown land to developers.

Rio de Janeiro Interpol chief Orlando Nunes said Michael Misick had been living in Rio de Janeiro for months.

He circulated in the city's most exclusive areas - Ipanema and Leblon - and lived a "sophisticated life", Mr Nunes said.

Mr Misick had official papers that allowed him to work in the country.

He had apparently sought political asylum in Brazil, Mr Nunes said, but had his request rejected last month.

Michael Misick left Turks and Caicos islands complaining of "political persecution" by the British, but an international arrest warrant was issued for him.

Britain now wants him extradited to the Turks and Caicos islands for questioning by a Special Investigation and Prosecution Team.

A measure of self-government was restored to the islands with elections in November 2012.

Britain has also changed the constitution to ensure that the new local administration is policed more closely.

The Turks and Caicos islands are known as a tax haven and a popular holiday destination. There was a resort-building boom during Mr Misick's years in power.

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