08/02/2017 13:31 EDT | Updated 08/04/2017 13:45 EDT

US control board to probe Puerto Rico debt, ties to crisis

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A federal control board overseeing the finances of Puerto Rico's government says it will investigate the U.S. territory's debt and its relationship to the island's economic crisis.

Wednesday's announcement comes as government officials seek to restructure a portion of the $70 billion public debt in a process similar to bankruptcy following multimillion-dollar defaults.

Puerto Ricans who have been affected by austerity measures and those who have invested in government bonds have long demanded an audit of the debt.

Board members said Wednesday that they will form a special committee that will appoint an independent investigator. They said the investigation will help restore fiscal balance and help Puerto Rico re-enter the capital markets.

Records show that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also has been investigating Puerto Rico bond sales.