Cyril Romney

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The Honourable
Cyril Romney
Chief Minister of the British Virgin Islands
In office
11 November 1983 – 17 November 1986
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor David Robert Barwick
Preceded by Lavity Stoutt
Succeeded by Lavity Stoutt
Personal details
Born 1 March 1931
Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Died 19 July 2007(2007-07-19) (aged 76)
Florida

Cyril Brandtford Romney (1 March 1931 - 19 July 2007) served as Chief Minister of the British Virgin Islands from 1983 to 1986. He also served as a member of the Legislative Council of the British Virgin Islands from 1979 to 1995. He was the first BVIslander to hold the post of Financial Secretary, and was also a business leader in the Territory and the region.

After an early career as a teacher, he studied economics at Inter-American University of Puerto Rico and then pursued a master's program in economics and political science at Syracuse University in New York.

Politics[edit]

Cyril Romney's first foray into politics was in 1975, when he stood as an independent candidate in the First District against Lavity Stoutt. He lost, but was subsequently elected in 1979 as the representative for the Fifth District and became a member of the opposition. He served a second political term from 1983 to 1986 and was Chief Minister of a coalition government with the United Party led by Willard Wheatley. During Romney's term as Chief Minister the International Business Companies Act, which was responsible for so much of the Territory's economic success, came into force.

In 1986 Romney's ruling coalition lost power after calling an early election, but he was re-elected and continued to serve on the opposition benches for two more consecutive terms. In both 1995 and 1999, he tried unsuccessfully to recapture the Fifth District seat standing on a pro-independence platform.

Romney was a permanent justice of the peace, a founding member of the Rotary Club of Tortola and a member of the BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association.

Colombian Emeralds in Road Town, one of Romney's business ventures

Electoral history[edit]

Cyril Romney electoral history
Year District Party Votes Percentage Winning or losing margin Result
1975 1st District Independent 111 24.9% -223 Lost
H.L. Stoutt
1979 5th District Independent 222 68.3% +103 Won
1983 5th District Independent 187 39.3% +33 Won
1986 5th District Independent 184 42.2% +26 Won
1990 5th District Independent 301 46.5% +47 Won
1995 5th District Independent 274 46.1% -17 Lost
E.E. Smith
1999 5th District Independent 233 31.8% -45 Lost
E.E. Smith

Political Offices[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Lavity Stoutt
Chief Minister of the British Virgin Islands
1983-1986
Succeeded by
Lavity Stoutt
Preceded by
Conrad Maduro
Leader of the Opposition
1990-1995
Succeeded by
Walwyn Brewley

Business interests[edit]

Romney had wide ranging commercial interests, including commercial and residential real estate development, and various aspects of the tourism industry. He was closely involved in the BVI's cruise ship industry; he founded a local travel agency, Travel Plan, in 1969 and a taxi company in 1979. He also purchased one of the Territory's major hotel chains, Prospect Reef, and opened a local franchise of Dolphin Discovery. He also opened the British Virgin Islands franchise of Colombian Emeralds International.

In addition to his commercial interests, Romney was for many years an active member of the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board and he initiated several strategies for promoting the Territory.

Alleged money laundering[edit]

Whilst serving as Chief Minister Romney was the 99% owner of a trust company called Financial Management Trust, which had been linked with laundering drugs money.[1] Although Romney was not personally implicated in the money laundering scheme, he was serving as Chief Minister at the time, the Legislative Council resolved to debate a no-confidence motion. To preempt the motion, Romney dissolved the Legislative Council and called a general election, which he lost.[2]

Romney was never personally implicated, and argued that the day-to-day running of the company was conducted by the manager, Shaun Murphy, who later turned Queen's evidence in relation to the Brink's-Mat bullion robbery. Because of trade licensing laws in the British Virgin Islands it is not uncommon for prominent local businessmen to appear as owners of businesses where they have little to do with the running of the business. However Romney was not awarded the customary OBE given to political leaders in British Overseas Territories by the Queen.

Death[edit]

Romney died on 19 July 2007 in a Florida hospital after a long battle with cancer. He was survived by five daughters and several grandchildren. On his death he was given an official government funeral. Chief Minister Orlando Smith said Romney's death marked the end of an era for the British Virgin Islands, stating: "Our community lost a leader and a hero today."


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