Politics

Virgin Islands governor faces recall after TheDC’s report on bribery allegations

United States Virgin Islands Gov. John de Jongh, a Democrat, could soon face a recall initiative brought by the U.S. territory’s legislature later this week. A Daily Caller investigation last week uncovered allegations that de Jongh accepted cash bribes in exchange for facilitating the sale of a telecommunications company to a politically embattled U.S. telecommunications cooperative. And now a senator from the U.S. territory has announced plans to pursue an election to recall de Jongh.

According to a knowledgeable government official who served on a Department of Justice team put in place to arrest finance executives close to that telecommunications deal, de Jongh accepted a portion of at least $20 million in cash bribes that floated throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands government. The U.S. Department of Justice, the source said, never acted on sealed indictments related to a years-long criminal scheme involving bank fraud and other financial crimes.

The bribes, according to the source, were for de Jongh, his attorney general Vincent Frazer and assorted Virgin Islands legislators — all aimed at quashing local concerns about financial irregularities identified on the books of the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Cooperative (CFC).

U.S. Virgin Islands Sen. Terrence “Positive” Nelson, a member of the Independent Citizens Movement political party — which tends to be more liberal than the Democratic Party — told TheDC Monday that he will launch an effort on Wednesday to recall the governor. if his initiative stalls in the territory’s Senate, Nelson said, he will take the recall measure directly to the public.

To force a recall election, Nelson said in a phone interview, he “would need 10 votes. I can’t say that I ‘have’ eight, but from speaking cordially with some of my colleagues, they seem like they’re willing to support it. Again, you know how politics is. But, there seems to be a willingness to support the recall initiative.”

Nelson told The Avis, a newspaper in St. Croix, that he has a “strong eight” of the ten votes locked up. “I’ve had some commitments for the vote already,” he told the newspaper. The U.S. Virgin Islands Senate has 15 members.

While Nelson wouldn’t say which of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ 15 sitting senators supported his initiative, one likely vote — Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly — told TheDC she would have to see the measure before she decided. “There is absolutely a need for us to deal with the situation,” she said.

“I think that a basis has been established for an attempt to put his name [de Jongh] on a ballot for people to decide whether or not they want him to continue in a leadership role,” Rivera-O’Reilly added.

Nelson said there are reasons for the recall push beyond the most recent bribery allegations, including accountability questions surrounding another de Jongh scandal known locally as “Mafoliegate.”

Nelson recently criticized the governor for what he called his “continued involvement in what seems to be financial crimes.”

“The general feeling here toward this governor,” he told TheDC, reflects “his involvement in backroom deals and just a lot of general suspicions around him.”

While Nelson did not comment specifically about de Jongh’s potential acceptance of bribes in the telecommunications case, he did say something seemed wrong when the bankruptcy-plagued Innovative Communications Corporation was sold to the CFC over the objections of former ICC chief Jeffrey Prosser.