16 February, 2008


International Anti-Corruption Day. I suppose it was the house-full of guests over Christmas. I completely missed the anniversary date of 9 December 2007. That was the day I started this blog back in 2006. It commemorates International Anti-corruption Day. This is the day set aside by the United Nations for all of us to look at the state of governance in all our countries. The problem with corruption, and how it permeates the fabric of all our West Indian societies, seems almost intractable. It is easy to see how high-level corruption involves people in power. So many of our leaders at all levels of government get involved in terms of contracts, money laundering, health and education. But, it has often been pointed out that there is another, lower, level. It involves simple expediency. We give in to corrupting influences because it is the easy way out. Too many of us are coerced into submitting to the machinations of corruption. The hurdles that are put in our way have to be crossed. We give in because it is the easiest way to move forward.

Restaurants are the scene and source of significant amounts of corruption in Anguilla. The varieties of corruption involved in running a restaurant in Anguilla are numerous and ingenious. When you are a foreign owner of a restaurant, you have licences and permits to obtain that locals do not. There is the Aliens Landholding Licence to hold the lease. There is the Work Permit for your French chef. There is the Restaurant Licence itself. There are electricity and water mains connections. There are conditions that you have to satisfy to get some of these. Some of the conditions are legal. Others are not. Typically, the foreign restaurant owner is told that he has to have a “local partner”. There is nothing wrong, in theory, with having a local partner. Government’s insistence on it originated with the best of intentions. Partnership encourages Anguillians to get involved in business with international entrepreneurs. Anguillians can learn how to be successful in business from such associations. In return, the Anguillian partner contributes part of the start-up capital, and provides local know-how and contacts, so essential in business.

In practice, local partnership has not worked in such a straightforward way in Anguilla. Much of the time it is the cause of a great deal of corruption. I could tell you a dozen awful stories from the restaurant scene in Anguilla. Often, the “local partner” is purely a front. He puts in no capital, yet gets 10% of the equity and the income. Oh, he gives value all right. He “arranges” exemptions from the work permit regulations. He “arranges” for customs duties to be evaded. On occasion, he even “arranges” to appear on the record as the majority owner of the business, thus converting it into a “local” business for the purpose of evading all Aliens Landholding Licence requirements.

This business of insisting on a “local” partner is one of the most corrupting influences in Anguilla today. This corruption is pervasive and widespread. It makes many of the restaurants in Anguilla smell to high heaven. And, the practice of fronting does not only apply to restaurants. It reaches even up to hotel ownership.

So, it was with a great deal of satisfaction that I heard of one foreign restaurateur who refused to give in to the pressure. He had bought an existing restaurant. He had thought it would be straightforward to do business in Anguilla. The British flag, he was told, is a guarantee of integrity and good governance. Instead, he learned he would not get his licences unless he took a “local partner”. His chef and senior staff were on-island. They were ready to open the restaurant. They were stopped. They could not begin work in the restaurant until all the licences were in place. The licences would not be forthcoming unless he took a “local partner”. Months passed. A year passed. His restaurant remained closed. I am told he was adamant. He simply refused. Fortunately, he could afford to. He refused to enter into any corrupt arrangement. Eventually, good sense prevailed. His licences were forthcoming. The restaurant is now open. Without one of us fronting for him.

I shall enjoy dining there.

Very few of us have the resources to be able to do what he did.

Let us celebrate integrity when we meet it. It is rare enough in Anguilla to be considered of high value. Let us try to make every day in Anguilla an anti-corruption day.


  1. Let's do some mathematics, shall we?

    Someone, an "alien", a "foreigner", a "non-belonger", wants to start a business in Anguilla.

    Last time I looked, you had to have US $2.5 million in capitalization.

    Apparently, the words "bootstrapping a business", and "Anguilla" are not allowed in the same sentence. By law.

    Fine. This person is flush. Perhaps he's a former US presidential candidate, or even a former president, and he's, um, earned, lots of Indonesian speaking fees. Or movie residuals. Whatever.

    He steps off his presidential-blue-stripped Gulfstream 5 ER, and the accountant following him around everywhere he goes these days hands documents proving to whoever you prove things to at gov.ai that he's got the necessary dosh.

    Next step: He's supposed to *give* an Anguillian 40% ownership in the business. (Yes, "give" is pretty much what it comes down to. I saw 40% somewhere on the Anguillian Government's website, somewhere pretty much contiguous with the US $2.5 million number.)

    So, here's the math part. I'll do it with English subtitles, for all you Philosophy Majors, Juris Doctors, and Social "Scientists" out there:

    .4 x $2,500,000 = $1,000,000

    Subtitles: "Forty percent of two point five million US dollars is One. Million. US. Dollars."

    I'd call it a cool million, but one presumes there was some sweating, somewhere, to actually *earn* that money, which, presumably, didn't grow on a tree, Loblolly, Mahogany, Sea Grape, or otherwise...

    One wonders how many Anguillian "Millionaires" there are, these days. Kinda discounts the value of the money actually *earned* by hard-working Anguillians who started their *own* businesses without foreign "friends", doesn't it?

    One presumes, in particular, that all those Anguillians who are now proud owners of whole flocks of the New Anguillian National Bird (the Concrete Pumper Crane...) pretty much came up, on their own, without foreign help, thank you very much. But I bet it sticks in their collective craw that others most certainly did *not*.

    I mean, waking up one morning and finding that Some Gulfstreamed Wonder paid US$10 million for 2500 square feet on half an acre with a, um, million-dollar view, in his back yard, and a golf-course in his front that doesn't even exist yet, and having *your* personal balance sheet skyrocket accordingly is one thing.

    But *this*? Even the most jaded, parking-ticket-fixing, coat-holding, big-city ward-heeler political hack would look at a deal like that and say, "man, that's just *wrong*. *Wrong*."

    That is, before boarding a plane to Anguilla and trying to figure out, desperately, how to become an Anguillian belonger, and as quickly as possible...

    Somewhere, Horatio Alger is laughing...

  2. Please advise me where to go to dinner. A really inspiring story.

  3. Is this the same "High integrity' gentleman who bought land on Maids Bay and then resold it less than a year later for 3 times the money? Of course no foreigner is allowed to "speculate" on Anguillian land, so buying and selling undeveloped land isn't allowed unless the powers that be make an "exeption".
    Interesting if true Mr. Mitchell.

  4. The corrupt and dishonest treatment of our fellow Overseas Territory citizens in the Chagos Islands (Indian Ocean) since the 1960s is about to boil over. See this discussion yesterday in the House of Commons:

  5. Regarding the first poster - I had not heard till now that there was a requirement for a US$2.5 million investment. Not had I heard that the Anguillian 'investor' would get 40% (I thought it was no less than 50% and, indeed, 70% was OK)

    If that is the case though, perhaps the math would go like this:
    Foreign Investor = $2.5 million = 60%
    Therefore, total value of the business = 100% = >$4.16 million
    Therefore, Anguillian's value / participation (provided in kind, not in cash, i.e. goodwill, consultancy, etc) = 40% = >$1.66 million.

  6. Right. Whatever.

    "We already know what you are, madam. We're now simply negotiating the price."

    --Bernard Shaw


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