17 December, 2009

Election bribes

Is it an offence for a political party to fly in voters from the USA, Europe and the Caribbean to vote in Anguilla’s upcoming elections?  A lawyer’s answer might be that it is not an offence if such generosity is not caught by section 73 of the Elections Act.  You can read the section for yourself, and be the judge.  The relevant part of section 73 reads:
73. (1) The following persons are guilty of bribery within the meaning of this Act
(a) every person who, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, gives, lends, or agrees to give or lend, or offers, promises, or promises to procure or to endeavour to procure any money or valuable consideration to or for any voter, or to or for any person on behalf of any voter, or to or for any other person in order lo induce any voter to vote or refrain from voting, or corruptly does any of those acts on account of any voter having voted or refrained from voting at any election;
(b) every person who, directly or indirectly, by himself or by any other person on his behalf, gives or procures, or agrees to give or to procure, or offers, promises, or promises to procure or to endeavour to procure, any office, place or employment to or for any voter, or to or for any person on behalf of any voter, or to or for any other person in order to induce the voter to vote or refrain from voting, or corruptly does any of those acts on account of any voter having voted or refrained from voting at any election; . . .
Paragraphs (a) and (b) set out the two most important bribery offences for the purpose of elections.  There are several other more specialised forms of bribery, but we need not look at them here.  The two main offences under section 73 are the paying or promising to pay any money or other valuable consideration to any person to induce any person to vote for a particular candidate, or to refrain from voting for any particular candidate.  That would clearly include a gift of cash, or a fridge, or a TV set.  Any person who is offered any cash or other gift to secure his or her vote should make a report to a senior police officer, and to his candidate.  Any person who knows of any bribe that has been given to any other person to induce them to vote a particular way, has a legal duty to report that situation to a senior police officer. 
This corrupt transaction happens routinely in every Anguillian general election.  We all wink knowingly at each other and discuss the various truck loads of building material and household equipment that is alleged to be supplied by some candidates in order to induce their constituents to vote for them on election day.  This is bribery, and it should be reported to the police and to your candidate when you have evidence of it happening.
A gift of an airfare is no different to the gift of a fridge.  We all know of cases where it has been alleged that certain politicians pay the airfare for their supporters living in other countries to come home for a holiday at election time and to vote for them.  This paying of airfare is bribery under section 73 of the Act, as it amounts to the prohibited “any other valuable consideration” given in order to induce the voter to vote a certain way. 
Where there is any evidence that airfares have been paid by a political party for persons to return to Anguilla to vote, it should be reported to a senior police officer.  Report it as well to your candidate, so that he or she can not only begin to prepare an election petition in case the election is stolen, but also for the purpose of getting on the back of the police to ensure that they do an investigation and bring any necessary prosecution.
            Paragraph (b) deals with the bribe of offering to get a job, or place of employment, for any voter in order to induce the voter to vote or to refrain from voting in a particular way.  Any campaigner who makes such a promise, or pays such a bribe on behalf of the candidate, makes the candidate liable if the court is satisfied that the candidate knew about it. 
If you have information of any of these offences being committed, report it to a senior police officer and to your candidate.  The penalty for bribery is a fine of $19,200.00 or a term of imprisonment of 6 months.  Additionally, any person convicted of bribery is disqualified from being registered as a voter or as a candidate for elections for a period of 7 years.  If a candidate is convicted for bribery after he has been elected, he loses his seat and cannot stand in elections again for 7 years.


  1. Mr. Mitchell:

    It is indeed an offence to provide the items you mention.

    The relevant Section in the Act is Section 62.
    Sub-section (1), which you have quoted in part, (there are also sub-sections (1)(c) to (1)(g))is qualified by sub-section (2) which states:

    "Sub-section (1) does not extend to any money paid or agreed to be paid for or on account of any legal expenses incurred in good faith at or concerning an election."

    "Legal expenses" are defined in sub-section (3) and include at (3)(b) " payments made for the purpose of hiring vehicles for the conveyance of voters to or from a polling station;"

    It is clear that the exemption relates to on the ground election day transportation of persons to polling stations and does not refer to the extravagant expenses of overseas travel which, in my Legal Opinion, fall squarely as offences under Sub-section (1) and constitute Bribery as defined by the Act.

    I suggest you look at Section 63 of the Act which makes "Treating" an Offence also.

    This deals with providing food, drink, entertainment or provision etc.

    I agree with you that the law must be enforced and any offenders, regardless of who they may be, be punished to the full extent of the Law.
    It is time that this systemic rot is excised from the gut of our political landscape.

    Regards and Season's Greetings

    Tommy Astaphan
    Little Harbour

  2. Sir Brian Alleyne, former Chief Justice, and presently an Integrity Commissioner for Dominica, made the same point recently at:

  3. All goes along with the greedy "something for nothing" mindset of many. In my humble opinion, someone who has to be bribed to vote, should not. Voting is a sacred duty of all citizens to exercise in order to better their beloved country. Bribery not only demeans the process, it perverts it. Those who give out the bribes are as guilty of perversion. But, there are many who believe that it is their "right" to receive something in exchange for their vote. It is that mindset that needs to be attacked--until one rightfully feels "shame" to receive such a bribe it will not end.

  4. Additionally, the voter must pause and reflect on the fact that, if a candidate/Party is/are willing to issue a Bribe-break the Law- to get into Office, he/she/they are (a) Criminals and (b) likely to continue breaking the Law while in Office.
    What is so alluring about elected Office that would impel a person to engage in Criminal Acts to get "elected"?
    Voters need to examine these questions and, if approached by ANYONE with ANY suggestion remotely resembling a bribe, immediately call the Police to report it or, if you are reluctant to do so, call me and I will assist you in bringing the matter to Justice. Do NOT be afraid.
    I will ensure that you are protected by the Law.

    Seasons Greetings

    Tommy Astaphan
    Little Harbour

  5. A Short Response: The Mere or Unconditional Provision of Transportation is NOT Bribery

    I have the greatest respect for Sir Brian. I note his advice has been circulated on the Internet. The Dominican.Net story quotes Sir Brian as saying

    “If the motive is to induce an elector to vote, that, to my mind, would amount to bribery.”

    Also, I have noticed an attempt was made to tie in Sir Brian’s advice to certain facts. In an earlier email Gabriel Christian sought by association to give the impression Sir Brian was commenting on specific facts or a specific story by referring to alleged documents and allegations below Sir Brian’s advice.

    I have confirmed with Sir Brian that he was not addressing any particular story or facts. In other words, he was not commenting on any specific allegations of fact which have been disseminated by some. I am therefore certain that Sir Brian was getting advice as a matter of construction and not on facts.

    However, I was not sure exactly what Sir Brian meant by the words “if the motive is to induce an elector to vote” or whether this was the sole basis of his opinion. Nor, am I sure that his entire advice has been published. But I am confident Sir Brian will agree that the mere provision of transportation is not bribery and that it would depend entirely on the facts as to whether the arrangements or agreements were conditional or unconditional.

    It would be very interesting indeed to know whether it is Sir Brian’s position whether all that is required to establish bribery is to show “…the motive is to induce an elector to vote”. Based on my brief discussion with him this morning, I doubt it. I believe Sir Brian accepts the distinction between conditional or unconditional arrangements. Therefore, even this narrow issue of inducement mentioned by Sir Brian requires a determination of the facts concerning relationship and agreements made by the parties.

    The provisions of our law, which govern bribery in elections, have been determined by Courts of law. The law is that

    “an unconditional promise of travelling expenses to a voter to go to the place of polling, with leave to him to vote or not, as and how he likes seems to us certainly not a promise of money to induce the voter to vote, being neither a promise with that view nor directly calculated to cause it.”

    Consequently, the mere or unconditional provision of transportation is not bribery. This issue is a question of fact, which can only be determined in accordance with due process, and an examination of all of the facts. Therefore, how on God’s earth can any one (not Sir Brian because he did not) at this time say or suggest that the arrangements or agreements being made, or made, constitute bribery is simply mind boggling.

    Further, what about the simple things that we all take for granted such as the presumption of innocence, due process, the right to be heard, burden of proof and evidence? In this silly and dangerously dishonest season, facts and the fundamental principles which are entrenched in our Constitution are spat on and shredded by the self ordained paragons of virtue.

    This present allegation of bribery is a figment in the minds of a lynch mob hell bent of misleading, mischief and destruction. It is part of the scandal mongering and fear mongering taking place in our local and Caribbean politics. My dad always said that there are some who if they cannot dazzle you with facts, will try to baffle you with…..( Sorry but I forgot the word). Just read the emails and listen to Q95 and you will get my drift! This a perfect example of baffling with…….( Sorry but I forgot the word again).


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