U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. John de Jongh denied rumors Friday that he was arrested or detained while in Washington, D.C. this week.
Local radio shows buzzed with chatter Thursday evening that several Virgin Islands government officials planned to turn themselves in to federal law enforcement authorities on corruption charges on Friday. It is unclear whether any officials actually surrendered themselves to authorities.
Then on Friday, rumors spread through the islands that the governor himself had been detained by authorities. De Jongh was in Washington, D.C. until Friday midday. According to local radio reports in the Virgin Islands (USVI), de Jongh’s wife — Virgin Islands first lady Cecile de Jongh — made a trip to join him in Washington on Wednesday afternoon. The first lady’s trip was not on the official schedule. The governor had reportedly been in Washington since Sunday.
Department of Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler wouldn’t answer when asked to confirm or deny the allegations that de Jongh was “arrested” while in D.C.
At first, two different spokeswomen for Gov. de Jongh told The Daily Caller they thought it would be accurate for TheDC to report that the governor’s office is not denying the allegations that de Jongh was “arrested.” Then, after initially refusing to do so, de Jongh communications director Jean Greaux denied the allegations and said the governor’s six-day trip was for his nephew’s graduation.
“Governor and Mrs. de Jongh were in Washington, D.C. this week to attend the graduation ceremony of the governor’s nephew from John Hopkins University,” Greaux said in a statement to TheDC after hours of refusing comment. “In a broadcast interview with two St. Croix reporters this afternoon, Governor de Jongh denied the allegation that he had been arrested while in Washington, D.C. this week. The governor and his wife are en route back to the Virgin Islands tonight.”
On the radio late on Friday, de Jongh criticized his detractors in denying the rumors.
“You know, the only comment I have for that is that it’s unfortunate that we continue to still have individuals that would perpetrate things like that that are clearly not accurate, nor is it true,” de Jongh said in a broadcast statement to 107.9 FM, reportedly recorded via phone from D.C. “One thing that I’ve been very clear to do during my tenure as governor is that I would never do anything to embarrass the people of the Virgin Islands. That’s something that since Jan. 1, 2007, has been an operating principle for me and will continue to be one until I leave office.”
“There are clearly those in our community that want to disrupt the functioning of government and take advantage of all the challenges that we have, and I hope that as we proceed, when we have differences about how we get to a different point, but I do believe that, ultimately, everyone of good faith will understand that we have to work together to get there,” de Jongh added. “We cannot be sidetracked by these stories of that nature. So, my response, clearly, more than anything, is that I hope people continue to take the long-term view, recognize that we continue to work very hard to make sure life in the Virgin Islands gets better and that we deal with the challenges that we have today.”
A Daily Caller investigation earlier this year unearthed allegations that de Jongh accepted part of at least $20 million cash bribes in exchange for facilitating the sale of a telecommunications company to a politically embattled U.S. telecommunications cooperative.
According to a knowledgeable government official who served on a DOJ 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, Virgin Islands Attorney General Vincent Frazer and other Virgin Islands legislators — all aimed at quashing local concerns about financial irregularities identified on the books of the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Cooperative.
De Jongh accused TheDC of racial motivations for reporting the story.
“It is a sad, sad day in the life of our territory when gossip and slander wash away reason and truth and fairness and common sense,” de Jongh said in a February 2012 statement. “It is a sad day in our nation when reckless allegations can be published without substance or verification as part of the smearing of our President [Barack Obama] or his Attorney General [Eric Holder]. This kind of broad brush stereotyping was shameful in the days of Jim Crow, and it is more so today.”