The premier of Turks and Caicos said Tuesday that he deserved an annual salary of nearly $300,000, as a commission of inquiry into alleged corruption in his government began hearing testimony.
Premier Michael Misick, who purportedly has amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune, said the $143,000 salary when he became the islands' leader in 2003 was unnacceptable and his salary was increased to $288,000.
Salaries were raised across the board for public officials.
"When I came to power the salary politicians and civil servants were being paid was very inadequate and since then we have increased their salaries so that they can live better," Misick told Robin Auld, the head of the fact-finding panel.
In July, former Turks and Caicos Islands' Gov. Richard Tauwhare created a commission to investigate corruption in the islands, especially allegations that Misick and other officials illegally enriched themselves by selling government-owned land to developers.
The commission, which has no formal power to enforce its recommendations, is scheduled to hold hearings on the allegations until Jan. 26.
Misick has dismissed the allegations, saying they were invented by his political opponents.
Also on Tuesday, Misick told the commission that he transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money to a Beverly Hills, California, account held jointly with his estranged wife, U.S. actress LisaRaye McCoy, to support her celebrity lifestyle.
Misick also said his wife, a Chicago native who has appeared in the movie "Beauty Shop" as well as a music video by Tupac Shakur, and Los Angeles Laker forward Trevor Ariza were paid by the islands' tourist board in exchange for using their images to promote tourism.
In 2007, Misick was sworn in for a second four-year term after leading the PNP to a sweeping victory in general elections, capturing all but two of 15 parliamentary seats. But he has increasingly lost the confidence of his own party over the past year.
A backlash against Misick recently spread to his own party's leadership, with nine of 13 parliamentarians of the ruling Progressive National Party in December saying they no longer have confidence in him.