30 March, 2007

Criminal Investigators

How My Crime Was Investigated.
Have you been a recent victim of a serious crime? If so, were you satisfied with the way the authorities handled it? If you were not, would you be willing to share your interpretation of your interaction with out law enforcement officers with us?

I have been reading and hearing of some really serious assaults that have taken place in Anguilla over the first three months of this year. I have heard of the almost hopelessly ineffective police investigations that have ensued. I have heard of offenders suspected of multiple assaults on women in their beds at night being released on bail to continue their predatory behaviour. I have wondered that no one has been speaking out.

The readers of this Blog are not particularly interested in interfering in any on-going police investigation. We are concerned about a different issue. What is the state of readiness of our law officers to protect us from the rising wave of crime that we face here in Anguilla? How they reacted to your incident will be revealing to us. Your experience may prepare us for what might befall us next. Sharing your experience, especially if it was not an entirely satisfactory one, with the public might even have the salutary effect of making those in authority who should be aware of what is going on stand up and pay attention. This last is probably a forlorn hope, I know, but we can try.

I am going to start off by posting a couple of my true stories over the next few days. I hope to post some of yours subsequently.

Send me an email, or telephone me at my listed number, and I will consider your story for a post, with such names and details as you decide.

29 March, 2007

Public Involvement

Public Involvement.

I am concerned that there are many issues of integrity in public life and good governance out there that I am missing. I would like to invite you, my concerned readers, to contribute your ideas. Is there a matter involving a question of integrity or good governance that you wish someone would look into? Is there an issue that has been concerning you for some time now? Why not try emailing me in confidence? I will make an enquiry and get back to you. If I publish the story it will be in a way that does not involve you. I will not publish it at all if you do not want me to do so. Let me hear from you.

28 March, 2007

Constitutional Reform

Constitutional Reform.

It was an honour and a privilege to have been invited by the Members of the House of Assembly to lead them through the Report of the Constitutional and Electoral Reform Commission delivered to the Governor in August 2005. There was a total of three sessions held at the Limestone Bay café during the month of March. Each of the three sessions lasted half a day. The discussion was lively, energetic, and friendly, with much give and take. At the end of the process, I can say with certainty that the members know what the issues are.

The members of the House now have the self-imposed obligation to go to their constituents throughout the island and seek their views. The team from London is coming for a first visit in just over three months. There is not much time left. The British team will want to know what Anguilla wants by way of reform. We must be prepared to answer in a sensible way. The Commissioners have consulted the public, but now the London team will want to know from government and members of the House what are the wishes of the Anguillians. The members of the House have promised that they will hold a series of public meetings in all the political constituencies of the island with a view to consulting with the people prior to meeting with the team from London.

In all this work, it will be important to bear two overriding factors in mind. I am concerned that there is a small but vocal group of persons with an agenda of their own. Maybe they have their own political ambitions. My fear is that they are intent on sabotaging the process of reform. It will require determination and self-confidence on the part of all Anguillians to ward off any coming assault on the reform process.

The second important factor is that when the members of the House meet with their constituents they have an obligation to remember that they are there to seek the views of the public. The Anguillian negotiating team will draw strength in London from knowing that they are carrying the demands of the Anguillian public to Whitehall. No one is particularly interested in knowing, for example, what Don Mitchell or Kenneth Harrigan thinks about an optimum size for the House of Assembly. Each one of us is entitled to our views. But, those are not the important views. It is the consensus view that emerges from the series of public meetings that is the only important one. I am looking forward to hearing soon that the public meetings are about to begin.

27 March, 2007


NICA Revisited.

It has now been some three weeks since I completed a series of posts on the status of NICA. Three of the problems highlighted in the series were, one, the fact that the company has been struck off the Register of Companies and technically no longer exists, two, that there have been no audited accounts or auditor’s report shared with the shareholders for over the past 15 years, and, three, that there is a need for an annual general meeting at which the shareholders can receive an up to date report on the status of company and, if necessary, vote on a motion to wind up the company and to distribute its assets among the shareholders, assuming the directors have in the meantime put the company back on the Register.

A recent search indicates that the company is still struck off the Register. It is not so difficult to have the company put back on. The longer the situation remains as is, the more concerned we must become that the directors have abandoned the company’s work.

So far as the audit is concerned, I have ascertained from KPMG that they were ready, willing and able to perform the audit as mandated by the shareholders. The audit is not an optional thing. It is a statutory requirement. The law demands it. Any meeting of the shareholders called by the directors without an up to date audit will be a fraudulent meeting in my view. The directors have not informed us whether they have proceeded to make the necessary arrangements with the auditors. We are waiting to hear.

Calvert Carty, the Chairman of the Board, has told me that he is anxious to hold an AGM. He wants to discuss with the shareholders a proposal to develop the Lockrum's property. When the Board is ready to call an AGM, I urge them to put on the Agenda a draft resolution to wind up the company. I do not think the shareholders want to hear more plans to do a development. I may be wrong. Let the shareholders decide.

26 March, 2007


Guest Editorial: Anguilla’s Failing Education System.
Anyone who is familiar the education systems of the West Indies would agree with me that Anguilla’s is one of the worst. It is a despair to me that we are turning out year after year a bunch of uneducated, indisciplined, unemployable young men. There are a few bright and welcome exceptions, but, they remain exceptions. One of my readers has contributed this essay, which I am happy to publish as a guest editorial:
Caribbean Net News recently carried a good article on the need to focus on child protection for youth at risk. A team came to Anguilla to research the issue of child protection, and assist with the development and implementation of action plans to strengthen the services for children. These people have now come and gone in Anguilla, and we have heard nothing of their conclusions and recommendations.

"Youth at risk" means if we don't deal with them in primary school, we get to deal with
them after they murder shop keepers in Little Dix. Unfortunately, a decision has been taken at the highest level to deal with the symptoms instead of the problems. All claims to the contrary are lies, like transparency at Social Security. Look at what our leaders do, not what they say.

The bright star in this mess is the WISE programme at the Cottage Hospital. Even with the increased budget, it is vastly underfunded, and unable to accommodate the hundreds of young people who need its services.

The Place 2 Be has a truly excellent programme for helping primary school children deal with problems. They, too, come and gone in Anguilla. They trained 15 teachers. An excellent start, but only a beginning. This programme has been put on the same shelf with the constitutional review and the coroner's report on the police officer who drove into the court house.

All what they left behind is a Minister who offers the excuse that he's on a learning curve. A minister of education is not expected to be an expert in educational psychology and the intricacies of classroom techniques, any more than the administrator of the Health Authority has to be a brain surgeon. His job is to listen to the advice of those who have spent a lifetime learning specialised skills, and work with these experts to bring better services to the people. Even a minister who works a four day week should have time to tell the Permanent Secretary, "OK - let's go for it!" What we are lacking is leadership.

25 March, 2007

New Technology


Several persons have told me that they are having a problem figuring out how to navigate the Blog. It turns out they were not reading the instructions that appear at the top of each post. This is a common problem. I thought that it might be helpful if I posted the following basic lesson in how we usually deal with new technology. It does not matter if you have the volume turned off. The audio is in Swedish, but there are sub-titles:

24 March, 2007

Sugar Transhipment

Sugar Transhipment.

For years we in Anguilla have been puzzled and curious as to how we became a sugar exporting country. I have made a number of posts on the subject. Now, Paul Sjiem Fat, the CEO of Anguilla Capital Corporation has responded with detailed information that I am happy to publish as a guest editorial. He calls it:

OCT-EU Preferential Sugar Trade: With regard to the end of the processed sugar exports from Anguilla, please note that the EU did not "put a stop" to any sugar trade between the EU and its Overseas Countries and Territories. In fact, the yearly OCT sugar quota is alive and well and the 28.000 metric ton overall OCT allotment will continue in its present form until the end of 2008 at which point it will be gradually reduced by 7.000 metric tons per year until 2011.

What did happen, however, was the following. A complaint against the EU was filed in the arbitration tribunal of the World Trade Organization (WTO) by Brazil and a few other countries about four years ago. This complaint stated that due to the very high sugar subsidies in the EU combined with unusually high import tariffs, third country sugar producers were being unfairly "locked out" of the EU's sugar markets.

Two years ago the WTO's arbitration tribunal ruled in favor of the parties that filed the original complaint (Brazil et al) and the EU was given a period of two years to dismantle its long standing subsidized sugar market regime. The OCT sugar processing trade had since its inception been an "arbitrage" game.

OCT based companies such as Anguilla Capital Corporation in Anguilla and others in Aruba and Curacao, sourced sugar at a low price in the global market and then shipped it to an OCT in order to subsequently ship to the EU (after nominal processing -- 'grinding, milling etc') and still make a decent return on their capital employed.

In accordance with the WTO's ruling the first thing that the EU did in order to dismantle its long standing subsidized sugar regime was forcibly lower their internal market prices. This, of course, created an "uneconomic" scenario for most, if not all, of the OCT based sugar processing export firms. In addition, another long standing agreement with the so called ACP group of countries involving raw sugar (not white refined as in our case) was also not renewed.

Mind you that of all the ACP countries that shipped raw sugar to the EU under a yearly quota, few if any had any natural competitive advantages in producing this sugar quota. For instance, you know St. Kitts better than me, and the mere fact that the island would have to import manpower from Guyana in order to harvest their cane crop shows how "unnatural" this arrangement was to begin with.

So, in short, the EU did not "stop" the OCT-EU processed sugar export trade at all. Rather, under irrevocable orders from the WTO the EU's internal sugar market prices were cut by almost 50% in less than eighteen months which in effect rendered the entire trade "uneconomical" in all of the OCT's. And, to add insult to injury, for the past thirty years world sugar prices (i.e., our 'raw material price') had been at historical lows (at times as low as US$ 175.-- per metric ton of white refined sugar). However, due to the fact that global energy prices increased by as much as they did over the past 24-30 months the viability of cane derived ethanol all of a sudden increased world market sugar prices by more than 200% which, in effect, was the last nail in the coffin that ended this trade in "all of the EU's OCT's."

23 March, 2007

Herbert Richardson

Herbert Richardson.

I had invited you to let me know if you knew if there was any person who deserved to be commended for his or her ethics and integrity. We now have another nomination that none of us who knows him will refuse to second:

I would like to add to the integrity list. Herbert Richardson of the Waterswamp/North Hill Road is a humble, respectful, decent and caring person. He is always willing to help, going the extra mile for people. Sometimes it even appears as though he is being taken advantage of. Herbert can be trusted with young people. He is never out of order, always so jovial.

Don’t hesitate to share with us the name of any other person in Anguilla, preferably in public life, and the reason why in your view he or she should be commended for integrity and decency.

22 March, 2007


Back in 1968 the British government expelled all the inhabitants of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean to Mauritius. They wanted to give the Americans a military base on Diego Garcia and the Americans wanted no people living around the base. Chagos is more than one hundred miles from Diego Garcia. In the year 2000, the High Court in England gave the islanders the right to go back home. They began returning home. Then, in 2004 the government used “executive power” to overturn the court order and to ban the return of the islanders to their ancestral home. The islanders went back to the High Court, and the court held the government’s action was illegal. The British government has appealed to the Court of Appeal. The court is now considering its decision which should come quite soon.

What is of relevance to us in Anguilla is that the government’s lawyer has argued that none of us who live in British Overseas Territories has a right of abode which “cannot be removed by Her Majesty”. You can read all about it in the Times Newspaper here.

One of the readers of this Blog has submitted the following comment, which I publish as a guest editorial.

Guest Editorial: The Coming Exile.

The British government’s lawyer has argued in the Court of Appeal that with the flourish of a ministerial pen, the busybodies in London may yet evict the lot of us! This has come as a shock to all the citizens of the Anguilla, the Falkland Islands, Bermuda and any of the other 11 territories under British sovereignty.

This goes a step further than taking my house, with appropriate compensation, because it's in the way of the airport runway expansion. Teacher George and Hubert have been going on about this for years, about how the British want to drive us back into slavery, take our lands and houses and force us to become homeless beggers in Europe. I hate to give aid and comfort to their quest to mislead the people. But, it seems there may be some truth in what they have been saying.

I believe various human rights conventions, perhaps starting with that signed in 1945 in connection with the founding of the United Nations, prohibits people from being exiled from their own country.

But what do I know, a simple islander?

What do you, the readers, think? Does the British government in this day and age have the right to rely on ancient common law precepts more consonant with the concept of the divine right of kings to rule? Or, do you think, as I do, that the court will put the government sharply into its place?

I can tell you that, if the court does not do it, one of the first Constitutional amendments that we must insist on is a provision that has the Queen acknowledging in our Constitution that she claims no right in future to evict the people from this island. The courts have ruled since the Statute of Westminster that once such a concession is made, neither the British government nor Parliament can go back and take it away.

21 March, 2007



Only a raging toothache kept me away from West End on Tuesday evening. Members of Antil had earlier announced a meeting on Tuesday evening at 7:30 pm to discuss the Cap Juluca proposed acquisition. Cap Juluca’s present owner, Dion Friedland, has just published a release saying that the last thing he has in mind is a sale to Antil. He is very happy with the purchaser he has found. We all agree that Anguillians must ensure that the heights of the economy are retained in local hands. Antil proposes to ensure this process continues by acquiring Cap Juluca whether the present owner wants to sell to them or not.

This is not an ethical issue. What is, is that several of the principals in Antil are government advisers and civil servants. Government has to approve an alien owning land in Anguilla. Government usually acts on the advice of its professional advisers. Why is it that Antil causes a queasy feeling in my stomach every time I hear about it?

I would very much have liked to have been present to learn what Antil is all about. What about you? Was any reader of this Blog present at the meeting in West End? What were your impressions? Is my instinctive reaction wrong and misguided? Can you elucidate?

20 March, 2007

Public Accounts Committee

Guest Editorial: PAC.

The failure of the Hon Hubert Huges and the Hon Eddison Baird, Anguilla's two Opposition members in the House of Assembly, and other members of the Opposition over the past 25 years to establish a functioning Public Accounts Committee continues to cause comment among my correspondents. Today’s guest editorial revolves around the existence of “slush funds”. These are funds that are not earmarked for any specific purpose. They can be misused, and often are. There is no way for an Auditor to complain about them, as the House of Assembly created the fund without saying what it was supposed to be for. Only an active and vibrant PAC would have the standing to summon officers of the Ministry of Finance and to question them, on oath if possible, about the way the funds were actually spent. In suitable cases, disciplinary proceedings would follow. In others, there would be political consequences for mis-spending:

Slush Funds: There's an article in the Royal Gazette a few days ago about the Government of Bermuda paying a claim to the widow of a man who died in prison, after he begged for seven hours to see a doctor. This led me to wonder where in our budget we hide the cost of claims.

I find line 352 in the recurrent budget of the Ministry of Home Affairs, "Grants and Contributions," which was $3,720,000 in 2005 budget estimate. I do not have a newer set of the Estimates. This appears to be a slush fund from which all manner of secret payments can be made. No accepted accounting practice in the real world outside of government allows such a large amount to be listed without being further broken down. With neither a functioning opposition nor Public Accounts Committee, and an Auditor who has neither voice nor balls, it would appear that the Chief Minister has a free hand to conceal a number of matters which, in a normal democratic society, would be the business of the people.

Who got the $3.7 million? Did you get any of it? I didn't.

19 March, 2007

Sugar Transhipment

Guest Editorial: Sugar Transhipment 2.

In a recent issue of the Light Newspaper, Teacher George published a story about the sugar flow from the shell factory having ceased. We have all in Anguilla contemplated with some amusement and not a little amazement the very idea that Anguilla could be a sugar exporter to Europe, when even St Kitts has lost its market there. I have received a couple of comments by email. I published one a few days ago as a guest editorial. Today, I publish another one:

The way things often happen in Anguilla, Paul Sjiem Fat's container traffic will be way down, Teacher George will make a comment like, "Is it true that the EU has stopped the sugar transhipment?" and Eddie will get up in the House and say he heard the EU has stopped the sugar transhipment. So I haven't paid much attention to these stories until today, when I was able to confirm that, indeed, there is some kind of problem.

Several years ago the shell factory was surrounded by countless police, who then raided the place. Sjiem Fat had hired a couple of young men who had been in trouble with the law, and the police were looking for evidence. They found nothing.

Some time thereafter there was a raid on Sjiem Fat's office, which is upstairs the Fair Play Complex. They were looking for evidence of money laundering on the part of Sjiem Fat's mysterious Israeli partner. It would be interesting to learn what the outcome was. It may be related to Sjiem Fat's current problem, whatever that may be.

18 March, 2007

Ascension Island

Ascension Island.

One of our overseas readers who follows events in the British Overseas Territories closely sent the following story. It is taken from a release over Radio Saint FM on St Helena. It is about Ascension Island. It is a pretty barren looking island in the mid-Atlantic. The total population is just over 1,000 persons. The story concerns six of the seven Councillors resigning in protest over negotiations with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The story is important to us in Anguilla because it shows that no matter how small you are, you can kick up a stink that is heard all over the world, if only you have the testicular fortitude to do so:

During the last week six Councillors on Ascension Island have resigned from their posts. Five have resigned within the last 24 hours. One resigned before the visit from FCO consisting of Hugh Philpott and Karen Moran, the others resigned today. The indicative reason for the resignations today were statements made by the FCO delegation. As it currently stands, Ascension Island is without an elected body to represent the islands inhabitants. A joint statement from the Councillors will be issued in the early part of next week.

A press release from the Ascension Island Government this afternoon said that:
“The Island Council held discussions with FCO Officials, Hugh Philpott, (Deputy Head OTD), Karen Moran, (St Helena and Dependencies Desk Officer) and Summiya Ahmad, (Support Officer) who visited Ascension Island from 14-15 March. The main areas of discussion were the housing and business policies. The Island Administrator also joined the lively sessions with the Island Council, which were chaired by HE the Governor. The main focus of the discussion was a draft housing policy, which was produced by the Island Council in 2006.

The visitors also met representatives from some of the Employer Organisations and the US and UK Base Commanders during their two day visit. The participants made some good progress. The Island Council agreed to draft a paper on certain aspects of the discussion on housing policy and send it to the visiting team when back in London. This will be put to FCO Ministers in order to finalise the policies discussed.”

The Administrator of Ascension, Mr Michael Hill said this evening that it was regrettable that the Councillors had resigned but he said that he would not comment on the reason for the walkout as it would be up to the Councillors to give the reasons for the resignations. However, he confirmed that the letters of resignation received contained reasons for the action taken. As the Ascension Island Council now cannot form a quorum new elections – in some form have to be forthcoming. The Attorney General for St Helena and Ascension Island, Ken Baddon, said this evening that “today’s events have raised constitutional issues that will be resolved over the next few weeks”.

After talking to Councillors on Ascension Island, the reason for their resignations is that the democracy on the Island does not work and is used as a cover for introducing un-democratic decisions and policies."

17 March, 2007



Anglec is one of our most important public utility companies. It manufactures and supplies all electricity to the homeowners and businesses of Anguilla. I recently received the following complaint about Anglec’s disconnection policy relating to rental properties:

Anglec seems to have to strange policy regarding collecting outstanding monies. If you, as a householder/owner, are delinquent in paying your monthly bills, you are disconnected until these payments are forthcoming (including re-connection fee). On the other hand, if a tenant is renting your property, quite often he/she is allowed to run up bills of any amount and then disappear, leaving the owner to pay Anlgec. Until these bills are paid, the company will not give the owner power, so the property cannot be rented or used by said owner. It seems Anglec is putting the onus on the owner to see that bills are paid. Why not disconnect the property (as would happen if the owner were using the property himself) until these bills are duly paid? Often the owner does not have a contract with Anglec but rather the tenant contracted to pay for the electricity used. In Anguilla, everybody knows who owns what, and Anglec seems to think that they will squeeze the money from the owners. I know of three instances where this has happened. In one instance, the company was asked to disconnect the power by owners and did so, but the tenant then asked to have it reconnected because she had a baby. The company reconnected. Unfortunately, no written requests were made. That tenant is now long gone and the owner is stuck with the bill of seven hundred dollars.

I asked Anglec if they would care to comment. Neil McConnie is the General Manager of Anglec. Mr McConnie responded as follows:

Anglec’s policy is fairly clear regarding disconnections for non payment of electricity bills. I shall attempt to explain this below:-

All accounts are either in the name of the owner or occupier who contracted the Utility to provide an electricity supply to the premises. If a disconnection becomes necessary because the owner or occupier has not settled the bill in the given period, the account qualifies for disconnection. Very often however, the following circumstances arise.

(a) The owner leaves the account in his/her name whilst the building is tenanted and the tenant pays the bill.

(b) The owner leaves the account in his/her name and requests that the bills should be sent to the address in care of the tenant and the tenant pays the bill.

(c) The account is transferred in the name of the tenant and if the tenant defaults the account in disconnected leaving the premises without electricity if the tenant absconds or is unwilling or unable to pay. In this case, the service deposit is applied against the outstanding bill.

In the case mentioned in the complainant’s e-mail, where the owner’s account was disconnected and the tenant requested a reconnection which was facilitated by Anglec, this process is unusual unless it was a life threatening situation.

I would be pleased to discuss this matter with him/her so that further investigation can be undertaken.

16 March, 2007

Sugar Transhipment

Guest Editorial: Sugar Transhipment.

As everyone in Anguilla knows, we are now a major player in the sugar trade. Anguilla, which has not had a cane field for over one hundred years, is exporting sugar to Europe. The idiocy of it all is so stunning that we have sat looking on in utter amazement. The following story was sent to me by a guest editor. I could not refrain from publishing it:

On page 3 of the 9 March "Light Newspaper" there is a story about transhipment.

Any article which attempts to discuss aluminium and sugar transhipment as a common "device" is going to contain errors. There are several basic and important differences.

We do not know why the sugar volume is down. It is important to recall that the trade is seasonal. Also, Anguilla has a small quota that we can't exceed.

There is no duty on products which originate in the OTs and are shipped to the EU. The reason sugar needs to be processed is to qualify it as an Anguillian product. The rules are well defined; it is not enough to simply re-package the sugar.

Aluminium (and motor vehicles) falls under completely different transhipment rules. These commodities are limited to manufactured products, and exclude sugar, rice and agricultural products. Aluminium is manufactured from bauxite; unprocessed raw materials such as bauxite and other ores are excluded, since they are not "manufactured."

The EU duty on aluminium is 6%. When transhipped through an OT, duty must be paid in the OT at a rate no less than that normally payable in the EU. George must be mistaken about Anguilla offering a cut rate on duty.

Anguilla has never transhipped rice. Montserrat did, before their facility was destroyed by the volcano. It has not been thought profitable to replace the factory, or to engage in similar activity in Anguilla.

15 March, 2007


Guest Editorial: Expats.

I have received the following contribution for posting. I wonder what the views of the Anguillian readers of this Blog are. It would be good to hear them.

Observing your blog I note there are a number of commissions, boards, and advisory groups appointed by government. Without exception, they are filled exclusively by Anguillian’s. For many years this has worked well. No haste, no waste. Today however, it’s a whole new ballgame and as Coville says, “things are a changing fast.”

Unfortunately, Anguilla doesn’t have time to measure twice and cut once.

Would guess expats account for 6-8% of the islands population. This is not a big number but certainly, not insignificant. A lot of these people have been here a long time, are citizens or belongers, and Anguilla is their home. Many retired from executive and professional positions or previously owned businesses. You must admit, within that group, there is a wealth of knowledge, experience, and expertise.

Heretofore, the philosophy has been, it’s our country and we run it. And that has worked well for forty years. Today however, the winds of change are blowing hard and the challenges facing government are the most perilous ever. Wouldn’t a new idea, fresh approach, or second opinion be helpful?

Why doesn’t government take advantage of this valuable human resource and invite some of these talented expats to participate? They are stakeholders and would take great pride being part of the process that helps navigate Anguilla through troubled waters.

Something worth thinking about. . .

Don’t hesitate to click on the word “Comments” below, and post a comment. If you click on “Anonymous” before you send the post, it will be completely anonymous to anyone who accesses the site, and anonymous to me as well.

14 March, 2007

Rodney Rey

Rodney M Rey.

I challenged you, my readers, to come up with persons in public life who demonstrate in everything they say and do a commitment to ethics and integrity. We now have the first of what, I hope, will be many submissions. It concerns our own Rodney Rey. This is what my contributor had to say:

Ahh, Rodney Rey!

As Principal of ALHCS, he was in my opinion the Principal with the most integrity and of high moral standard. He was the one Principal who could be relied upon. His word was true. His language was cordial. He did not avoid conflict. He once sent me home because my skirt was too short to teach. And he was right.

Now he's back in my corner as a PS Education and he has that aura of integrity still. He is always friendly, cordial, reasonable and straight. He makes me want to perform up to his high standard. Isn't that just what a superior should do, inspire you to go just that extra mile because you know he does the same?

13 March, 2007

Selling Land

Selling Land.

This post is a follow-on from the one posted yesterday. The second problem relating to land in Anguilla has to do with the refusal of Anguillians to lease their land. We all know that it is better for our families and descendents if we lease rather than sell. There will be something coming back in a few years time. Everyone is selling, no one is leasing. What to do?

Anguillians have to be persuaded to lease their land. How to do it? Especially when everyone keeps saying that no foreigner wants to take a leasehold interest, they all want to buy. It is not true, of course. It is just what everyone says.

First, government can introduce a heavy tax on the purchase price of land that is sold. Make the seller pay a 15% stamp duty. At the moment only the purchaser pays, and then only a 5% stamp duty. Keep the stamp duty for purchasers, but increase it. Make it higher, much higher. Let leases continue to be free of tax to the landlord. A 15% tax on sellers will be a deterrent.

Second, government can mount a campaign to persuade Anguillians to stop selling land. It is a matter of education. It does not take much. If no land was selling in Anguilla, those foreigners who want a piece of the Rock will soon become accustomed to leasehold interests. If all a foreigner can get is a 15 or a 25 year lease, then that is what will be available. The problem only arises if exceptions are made for a favoured few.

Third, as part of the education campaign, Anguillians can soon become aware that a lease can be as good as a sale when it comes to raising money from the lease of land. We don’t have to lease or rent for monthly or annual payments. We can negotiate for all the lease money to be paid up front. That way, we get the full value on the day the lease is signed so we can use the money as we want. A lawyer can easily prepare a lease that so provides.

As part of the education campaign, we have to stop talking about leasing, since it is so unpopular. As everyone wants to sell, we have to learn to start talking about selling a 10 year lease, or selling a 20 year lease. If you go to London today and you want to buy a flat in Mayfair or in Marble Arch it will cost you a good sum of money. Those are choice areas. Just like Anguilla is. When you buy such a flat, you are paying not less than ₤5 million for a three bedroom flat. And, you are not getting any freehold. You are not getting more than 15 years. Better learn to like it. There is no flat for sale in Marble Arch or Mayfair for more than 15 years. And, none is for less than ₤5 million. There are families in London that have been selling the same flats for two hundred years, and they still own the freehold. They consider us the height of idiots for selling the freehold. They laugh at us. We deserve it.

12 March, 2007

Fronting Land

Fronting Land.

It seems to me that there are two hot current issues relating to land in Anguilla. They are fronting land, and selling land. Let us look at them one by one.

The first issue, fronting land, arises out of the increasing number of stories that are being brought to me about two particular lawyers who are assisting foreigners with fronting. The deal often works this way. A foreigner comes to the lawyer and says he wants advice and assistance in buying a piece of land. He has agreed a price with the owner. What is the tax? The lawyer says he knows a way it can be done with a big saving in government taxes. The client says he is interested. The lawyer then tells the client the way to do it is to let the lawyer form a company for the client. The lawyer and one or two of his friends will be the shareholders and directors of the company. They promise to carry out the instructions of the client. The client will pay for the land, but the land will be put in the company’s name. That way, the client will be saved the heavy Aliens Landholding Licence tax. The client asks if the lawyer is sure that this is legal. The lawyer promises the client that it is completely legal. The client is delighted that the Anguilla government is so stupid. He goes along with the scheme.

Of course it is not legal. It is a sham transaction. It is a fraud on the revenue of Anguilla. The court will strike it down in a moment if a case was brought. Any case brought by the Attorney General for the forfeiture of such land to the government will inevitably succeed. Any lawyer doing this type of transaction deserves to be locked up. That is the penalty for this offence provided by the law. The law office secretary or other person acting as trustee will go to jail as well as pay a heavy fine.

Not least of the client’s problems is that when the client dies, the lawyer and his friends will more likely than not cheat the client’s estate out of the property. If the lawyer is a crook, there is no saying what he will not do. Especially if he thinks he can get away with it.

It is not as if there is no way for government to solve the problem and stop this fraud. It is amazing to me that government ministers sit and gape at the problem and act as if they are helpless. There are several obvious steps government should be taking.

First, government has to go on the media and say that they will not allow it. They will severely punish any Anguillian or foreigner using this stratagem to get around the tax and the regulations. No Anguillian or, even more so, no foreigner, wants to be in conflict with the government. Foreigners are particularly sensitive. Such an announcement will result in quite a few coming clean. It is not as if this is an expensive or difficult step to take.

Second, we need government to go on the media and announce that any foreigner found holding land in this way will be declared “persona non grata”. They will be declared a prohibited immigrant and refused permission to visit the island ever again. That will put the fear of God into them and result in even the cockroaches among them coming clean. The truth is most of them are not cockroaches. They have simply been misled by the bad legal advice they got. Best of all, this step does not cost government one dime.

Third, we need government to announce on the media that any foreigner using this mechanism will be proceeded against in court, and their lands taken away and forfeited. They might be given a grace period to come clean and pay all their taxes and obtain their licence. This will squeeze the last of the probably unwitting fraudsters out of the background. And, Radio Anguilla is free of cost for ministers to use.

To really ensure this fraud comes to an end, we need a small amendment to the law. The Act which calls for foreigners to be licensed and to pay a tax needs to have a small section added. This will call for the directors of every company owning land in Anguilla to file an affidavit in the Registry of Companies every year stating on oath that no foreigner holds any interest of any kind in the land owned by the company or in the shares of the company, except such that is revealed in the affidavit. There will be a heavy penalty for not filing the annual affidavit in time. That is not all. No Anguillian wants to go to jail for ten years for swearing a false affidavit. The Anguillians who are fronting will quickly refuse to hold the shares in trust any longer. This will result in the last of the rats coming out of their holes.

Finally, government has to call on the Bar Association to back up its initiative to bring an end to fronting by members of the legal profession. The majority of lawyers would welcome this. A couple of seminars by appropriate persons from the Attorney-General's Chambers, on the consequences likely to flow from their discovering any lawyer engaging in this activity, will be bound to have a salutory effect.

So long as government continues to turn a blind eye to this type of wrong-doing it will continue to flourish.

11 March, 2007

Ethics and Integrity

Ethics and Integrity.

My wife has asked me if it is not time that I write a story about a person who demonstrates ethics and integrity in public life. Why only publish negative stories, she asked. Well, I can only publish stories that I know. If any of the readers of this Blog knows a story about a person in public life who demonstrates in everything he or she does a commitment to ethics and integrity, please let me know. I would be delighted to publish such a story.