Bermuda gets new premier amid campaign controversy

AP News
Posted: May 20, 2014 1:48 PM

HAMILTON, Bermuda (AP) — The premier of Bermuda has abruptly resigned his post and been replaced by his deputy amid a campaign finance controversy in the wealthy British island territory.

Michael Dunkley took the oath of office Tuesday to take over from Craig Cannonier and said he would continue the work of the former premier.

Cannonier, who was elected to head the government in December 2012, said in a televised statement that opposition allegations that his party improperly accepted a campaign contribution from U.S. developers seeking business opportunities in Bermuda have undermined his ability to lead.

"This controversy has called into question my integrity and my leadership, the confidence of my colleagues and the support of my party, threatening the good work of the government going forward," he said. "Nothing illegal was done, but I accept there was a failure over time to be completely transparent."

Cannonier has acknowledged meeting with U.S. developer Nathan Landow and several associates and that his party, the One Bermuda Alliance, accepted a campaign contribution. Local media have reported the amount as $300,000.

Opposition lawmakers called on the premier to resign, saying he should not have accepted a flight on Landow's private jet or allowed the party to accept a contribution from developers seeking to do business in the island. Cannonier, who resigned late Monday, said he had never made any deals in exchange for the money.

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Marc Bean, leader of the of the opposition Progressive Labour Party, said that at least two other leading figures in the government, Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell and Attorney General Mark Pettingill, should also resign for deflecting questions about the contribution.

"The resignation of former Premier Cannonier was wholly appropriate, but he was not the only OBA official that has violated the Ministerial Code of Conduct, and through omission, deceived the people of Bermuda," Bean said in a statement.

Bermuda, with a population of about 70,000, is an offshore finance center as well as a tourism destination and has among the highest income per capita in the world.