Government in Bed With Straw Vendors?
According to the PLP, the illegal actions of the straw vendors being held in the United States were done with the “complicity” of the Bahamian government. Therefore the government should pay the vendor’s bail and provide unprecedented assistance.
From a statement by PLP MPs Alfred Sears and Fred Mitchell:
“The incontrovertible and easily verifiable facts are that the counterfeit goods are sold in a government-owned and sponsored market. The vendors are issued business licenses by the government, they have licenses to have booths in the market and the vendors, when they bring their goods in, declare their goods and pay custom duty to The Bahamas government.”
Now, it is easy to dismiss the PLP’s comments as typical anti-FNM-government rhetoric. However, even though they are probably just using this as a political football, there might be something to the accusations that the Bahamas government is complicit in the trafficking of counterfeit goods.
Remember back in 2006, Bahamian government officals, including Customs officers, raided a warehouse full of counterfeit products. They confiscated thousands of fake designer handbags and other knock-off goods. Two persons were charged but no one was ever prosecuted. The owner of the goods, a Chinese national with Bahamian status, pleaded ignorant saying he did not know that the counterfeit designer goods were illegal. Of course, that shouldn’t have mattered as ignorance of the law is no excuse. Besides, while he might not have known the goods were illegal, Bahamian government officials and Customs authorities certainly did.
Thus, after that date, it is not too difficult to follow the logic that any and all counterfeit bags allowed to pass through Customs, or openly and freely displayed in the straw market, might be considered as having tacit government approval.
Further, by collecting duties on products known to be illegal, the government of the Bahamas could be seen as having received the proceeds of crime.
By failing to swiftly prosecute the Chinese owner of the illegal goods and stamp out the sale of counterfeit products in the straw market, the Bahamas government, again, seemed to be condoning the sale of counterfeit merchandise, while highlighting the dysfunctional justice system in The Bahamas. (That’s a subject for another article.)
Therefore, the government of the Bahamas may not only be implicated in the crimes of the vendors, it could be construed as being part of a larger conspiracy to traffic in counterfeit products.
In the United States, this could fall under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (commonly referred to as RICO Act or RICO). Under that law, racketeering activity includes counterfeiting and fraud.
But the plot thickens.
In an editorial in the Tribune, the editor refers to a letter from former Assistant Police Commissioner Paul Thompson:
“In a letter written to us yesterday, retired assistant commissioner of police, Paul Thompson, who is still in the police reserve, told us that at the time of the raid he called one of his senior police friends. He told his friend that if the police were to do a proper job they would now have to move on to the straw market and clear the shelves of the same illegal goods there. Mr Thompson was told that that was what the police had planned to do. However, he said, the police got a call from “a senior official in government”, who told them to drop the idea of a raid and give the vendors an opportunity to sell the goods.”
Whoa! If it was indeed “a senior official in government”, then the Bahamas government did actually “condone” the selling of the bags. The PLP was in power at the time but that does not make it a PLP decision. It was a Bahamas government decision made by a member of the (then) ruling PLP party who, right or wrong, was acting with the full authority of the Bahamas govermnment.
The fact that there is even ONE counterfeit bag in the straw market today, after what happened in New York, makes a damning statement as to the complicity and criminality of the Bahamas government, no matter which selfish political party is in charge.
An ethical government, one not rooted in criminality, would have swept that market clean of illegal merchandise the day after the arrests in NYC.
They would also shut down Super Video while they are at it.
Could the PLP be right? Is the Bahamas government complicit in the trafficking of counterfeit goods?
What do you think? Is there logic to this line of thinking or am I full of beans? Let me know what you think by commenting below.crime, law, PLP