The trial of Michael Misick, the former Prime Minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands, could end up costing US$100 million and people in the tiny British overseas territory are concerned about it.
Mr. Misick, four other former Progressive National Party ministers in the Turks and Caicos government and several other defendants, went on trial in December 2015 accused of corruption.
But more than two years later the trial is still dragging on, with the prosecution still not having finished its case, and is estimated to be costing around $1 million a month.
Willa Grey, 33, an entrepreneur and former police officer in the Turks and Caicos Islands, said people there were "angry" about the cost, which is hampering the government's efforts to tackle the damage caused by two hurricanes, Irma and Maria, in September last year.
"The trial is long-winded and tiresome and it's very costly. It's hurting the entire nation and the money could be better spent repairing the hurricane damage," Mr. Grey told Sputnik.
Estimated $250 Mln Worth of Hurricane Damage
The current prime minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, has estimated the two hurricanes caused around $250 million worth of damage to the tiny archipelago, which is east of Cuba.
"This trial is killing our economy and we have got no results from it. It is one of the longest trials in the history of the Caribbean and people are starting to wake up and think why are we paying for it," Mr. Grey told Sputnik.
Hayden Boyce, editor-in-chief of the TCI Sun newspaper, said the trial itself had now cost the Turks and Caicos government far more than the $13m (£9m) which Mr. Misick and the other defendants were alleged to have misappropriated.
The TCI Sun published an article this week alleging the British prosecutor, Andrew Mitchell QC, was buying a house on the island for $1.27 million through a shell company.
Prosecutor Says House Purchase Above Board
But Mr Mitchell said the house was being paid for out of his personal savings after working for 40 years as a barrister, mainly in London.
"I have a deep commitment to this country, having now lived here for almost eight years. I am buying the house, if it completes, in the name of a company, on the advice of local attorneys. It is not a shell company as it will have an asset. My name will be on the share register of the company, I have nothing to hide and am pleased to be able to invest in the Turks and Caicos Islands and therefore to contribute to its bright future," he told Sputnik.
Mr. Mitchell said he could not comment on the trial but was confident it would conclude later this year.
"The average wage in the islands is only $6.50 an hour but these lawyers are living in penthouses. They are living the life and it doesn't seem fair…it's making people angry. People are upset that there is no sign of an end to it," Mr. Grey told Sputnik.
"There is a growing sense in this country that the trial is a waste of time and money," said Mr. Boyce, who admitted his wife Lilian, the former health minister, was one of those on trial along with Mr. Misick.
"The tourism industry took a beating from the hurricanes and many of the hotels were closed until the middle of December and the UK government said the Turks and Caicos Islands was too rich to qualify for aid," Mr. Boyce told Sputnik.
'Political Corruption and Financial Greed'
At the start of the trial Mr. Mitchell said Mr. Misick and the others had received "campaign contributions" in return for giving government-owned land to property developers and he said the case was about "political corruption and financial greed."
Mr. Mitchell claimed $23,400 was spent on a fashion consultant to "style the wardrobe" of Mr. Misick, $100,000 was spent on a boat charter for the premier's wife LisaRaye and nine other guests, $10,000 was paid to a private school in Switzerland attended by LisaRaye's daughter, and $150,000 was spent on furnishings for the newly built home of the premier.
Mr. Misick and the other defendants deny all the charges.
A British developer, Richard Padgett, pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in 2014 and was given a suspended prison sentence.
Misick Tried to Make Islands 'Sexy'
Mr, Misick, who was married to US hip hop model and actress LisaRaye, attracted celebrities like Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chris Tucker and Lil' Kim to the islands and in an interview in 2016 he told Sputnik journalist Chris Summers he had been trying to make them "sexy" but London "killed the buzz" when they sacked him and imposed direct rule.
But Mr. Misick has now been banned from talking to the media during his trial, which is being presided over by an 80-year-old Jamaican judge, Paul Harrison.
Since he was deposed in 2009 Mr. Misick has been pushing for the islands to become fully independent of Britain, but he failed to get re-elected as an MP in the 2016 election.
"The independence debate has quietened down now. But there have been calls for constitutional change because the Governor has immense power," Mr. Boyce told Sputnik.
The current Governor, Dr. John Freeman, is a British diplomat and the former ambassador to Argentina, who was appointed by the Foreign Office in 2016.
The UK government was asked for a comment on the situation in the Turks and Caicos Islands but has not replied.