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Originally published Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 9:36 AM

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Cayman Islands premier says he will not step down

The leader of the Cayman Islands government on Thursday rejected calls to resign over his arrest on suspicion of corruption, calling the investigation a plot by political enemies who are trying to weaken him and smear his reputation.

Associated Press

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KINGSTON, Jamaica —

The leader of the Cayman Islands government on Thursday rejected calls to resign over his arrest on suspicion of corruption, calling the investigation a plot by political enemies who are trying to weaken him and smear his reputation.

Premier McKeeva Bush shrugged off the allegations during a visit to Jamaica's capital on Thursday, two days after he was arrested by the British Caribbean territory's police and a day after being released on bail until early February.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service said they are looking into allegations that Bush misused his government credit card and abused his office by importing explosive devices without valid permits. He was arrested at his home on Grand Cayman on Tuesday morning and interviewed by investigators for two straight days.

No charges have been filed, but police describe their investigation as "very active."

There has been a growing call for Cayman's leader to step down since his arrest, which surprised many supporters and critics in the famed Caribbean tax haven. But after giving a commencement address to college graduates in Kingston, a defiant Bush said he has done nothing wrong and intends to stay on as premier.

Bush described Gov. Duncan Taylor, who represents the British monarchy in the three-island territory, as his "enemy." He implied his arrest was orchestrated by the Britain-appointed governor and other political foes.

"We are a British overseas territory and as such it is run by the governor and the commissioner of police. And so I can't miss that it is nothing but a political, very vindictive political witch hunt," Bush said.

A spokesman for the governor, whose post is largely ceremonial, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

In Jamaica, Bush said he wanted to reveal the "whole story" behind his arrest but his lawyers advised him not to speak specifically about the allegations. He said he was confident he will be vindicated in coming months.

"I would just say that I have done nothing wrong," he said. "I have made a lot of friends and I have made a lot of enemies. There are a lot of jealous people in a very small island."

Bush had been scheduled to receive an honorary doctorate for public service Thursday from Jamaica's University College of the Caribbean. But the school's chancellor, Herbert Thompson, said school officials decided to wait the outcome of the investigations.

But the Cayman leader did address the university's fall graduates as commencement speaker. Among other things, he advised them to be tenacious, always play by the rules, and tell the truth.

"A reputation takes a lifetime to build and a moment to dismantle," said the 57-year-old Bush, who made only a few passing references to his troubles during the address.

Bush's arrest has been the talk of the Cayman Islands, where zero direct taxation, financial secrecy and the global money it has lured have transformed the tiny territory into the world's sixth largest financial center.

He wields great power within the British territory because he is in charge of finance, tourism and development as well as being head of government.

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David McFadden on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dmcfadd

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