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June 22, 2010

Bahamas rife with Organized Crime

By Ai Lung Nguyen - June 2010.

POLITICS - If you're thinking of visiting the Bahamas think again. The country is so filled with billionaires and the equally rich and powerful that life is pretty cheap there (and easy to cover up a murder).

The tiny group of islands off the coast of Florida is home to 330,000 people and its economy relies mostly on tourism... which is thankfully high due to the number of wealthy Americans and foreigners who visit every year.

The rich buy up tracts of land in the Bahamas, hire staff to clean and maintain their multi-million-dollar homes...

The wealthy are so plentiful in the Bahamas they have corrupted the local government, resulting in very few taxes on the rich. There is no income tax, no corporate tax, no capital gains tax, no value-added tax (VAT), and no taxes on the wealthy. The government survives on import tariffs, license fees, property and stamp taxes.

This also means someone who is into the stock market for example can do all sorts of things they wouldn't be able to do in the United States or Canada because its illegal in those countries. And better yet its a tax haven. You can make oodles of money doing illegal things on the stock market and get away with it. Insider trading is just the tip of the iceberg.

What we have in the Bahamas therefore is a toxic environment where the rich are all powerful, the government is corrupt, murders are covered up (dismissed as missing persons, accidents, etc), and organized crime goes unseen.

According to the U.S. Department of State (which tracks criminal activity both in the USA and abroad for potential threats) the Bahamas has a very high crime rate. Not just organized crime, but in general. Everything from petty theft, muggings of tourists and pickpocketing to more serious crimes like kidnapping, extortion and murder. The Bahamas also has the highest incidence of rape of all Carribean islands.

Two American citizens were murdered in Nassau in 2009.

Gang crime is also rampant. In 2009 three separate groups of tourists were held at gunpoint and robbed at popular tourist sites in Nassau.

Another incident in 2009 was at a major resort where two security men were shot.

Exchanges of gunfire on busy streets are not just unheard of, but surprisingly common.

Several days ago a 54-year-old caretaker was found dead in the jacuzzi of billionaire financier Louis Bacon who lives in Lyford Cay. Police didn't even report the death until local media learned about it. The cause of death was not confirmed, but the body was quickly cremated and flown out of the country in only two days. Bacon is not accused of any wrongdoing in the mysterious death.

Louis Bacon meanwhile is embroiled in a commodities scandal for manipulating platinum and palladium prices and so far has had to pay a $25 million penalty to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Pocket change to a billionaire.

Neighbour and fellow Lyford Cay resident Peter Nygard insists Louis Bacon is innocent. Peter Nygard himself is a figure of scandal, with allegations of abusing his employees, running sweatshops overseas, human trafficking, slave labour, raping a 17-year-old girl and murder. Peter Nygard is hardly a good character witness.

Nygard's walled compound in Lyford Cay (complete with shark tanks) would make a James Bond villain jealous. Guests at his home are described as "dubious at best". Part of his Lyford Cay home was burned down in December 2009 from unknown causes.

The known crimes (the ones that get reported) are mostly in Nassau. The outlying islands are even more dangerous because when crimes happen there is no police around. No authority. No consequences.

And in a country where billionaires have their own 'security' men and own shark tanks its considered wise not to piss them off.

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