The Foreign Office has abruptly recalled the governor of the Cayman Islands to London pending an investigation into a number of complaints against him.
Anwar Choudhury, a trailblazing diplomat, was only appointed in March to govern the islands, which is among a number of Britain’s overseas territories at loggerheads with Westminster over new tax transparency legislation. He is the Cayman Islands’ first Muslim governor.
The Foreign Office (FCO) said it was inappropriate to discuss the reasons for Choudhury’s temporary withdrawal, or the nature of the complaints made against him. His deputy has been placed in temporary charge.
The Cayman Islands’ elected premier, Alden McLaughlin, said he was unable to say what complaints had been made, but that Choudhury’s suspension was “unforeseen and unfortunate”.
McLaughlin is currently in London for a meeting chaired by the overseas territories minister, Lord Ahmad, at which the constitutional relationship between the territories and the UK was certain to be discussed.
Born in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Choudhury was recruited from the private sector, to become the first Bangladeshi-born British high commissioner to Bangladesh in 2004. He served for four years, returning to the FCO in 2008 as a senior policy director.
While serving in Bangladesh he was wounded in the leg in a terrorist attack. Three men were hanged in 2017 for their part in masterminding the grenade attack.
Choudhury had made a splash in his first three months as the Cayman Islands’ governor with high profile interviews promising to burn the unnecessary bureaucracy that he said gripped the civil service.
The opposition leader Ezzard Miller said it was unfortunate that no reason was being provided for Choudhury’s withdrawal.
Resistance to Westminster’s decision to impose public registers of beneficial share ownership has gripped most of the overseas territories since a backbench Tory rebellion forced the plan onto reluctant ministers on 1 May. The territories fear that if they are forced to open share registers to public scrutiny, valuable investments will flee to more secretive jurisdictions elsewhere. Currently, registers of share ownership are only open to law enforcement agencies.
The territories have until the end of 2020 to introduce the public registers.
The Cayman Islands’ elected politicians claim the UK is overreaching in imposing such an intrusive law though a procedure known as an Order in Council.
As the voice of the UK on the islands, the governor is in the delicate position of having to conciliate between the sovereign Westminster government and elected Cayman ministers. . In interviews, Choudhury had stressed the need for the islands to produce a public register that the elected politicians had designed, while pointing out the UK legislation provided some flexibility.