Nearly two-and-a-half years after the assassination of offshore finance executive Hywel Jones, a British national, in the Bahamas, the person who is widely believed to have ordered the hit – well-connected, former politician Lester Turnquest – has still not been charged.
This comes as no surprise to me. Just a few weeks after Jones died in early May, 2009, I wrote that: "Observers familiar with life in the Bahamas are skeptical that the local police force, which is widely considered to be rife with corruption and incompetence, will conduct a credible and professional investigation into the murder. In OffshoreAlert's experience, local policemen are as likely to participate in a crime as they are to solve one. For example, during one of the assaults on him prior to his murder, Jones managed to obtain what he claimed was the make, model and color of his attacker's car and the first three digits of the car's license plate (most license plates in the Bahamas have only five digits, while some have six), specifically that it was a white Toyota Avalon whose plate began with the numbers '587'. Frustrated with the local plod's refusal or inability to track down the owner, Jones hired a private investigator who obtained the owner's identity within 24 hours, according to a source. To the investigator's horror, he found that the car was owned by a policeman whose father was also a policeman of a senior rank, OffshoreAlert was told. The PI was so scared by what he had uncovered that he refused to conduct any further research, would not pass on the name of the owner to Jones and did not even send Jones a bill, we were told. OffshoreAlert is also aware of another expatriate who says she was brutally beaten up by a policeman several years ago while living in the Bahamas in what was also a targeted assault, as opposed to a random one."
Nothing that has happened since the publication of this article has changed my opinion about widespread corruption and incompetence in the Bahamas, only strengthened it.
Indeed, open corruption permeates all aspects of authority in the country, including the government, the police, state-owned companies and, possibly, even the records department of Bahamas Supreme Court, as I discovered when I repeatedly tried in the summer of 2009 to obtain records of a legal dispute that Jones was having with Turnquest, his former business partner, whom Jones had accused of stealing approximately $20 million from basically one single client in Canada. It is this dispute that many people believe is directly linked to Jones' murder.
Shortly after Jones was shot and killed outside his office in Nassau, I sent a researcher to the Supreme Court's records department to obtain filings in the civil action, which apparently include an affidavit from Jones in which he claimed that he feared for his life as a result of his dispute with Turnquest. My researcher was told by the court that the case was sealed and went away empty-handed.
When I queried this by email with Supreme Court Registrar Donna Newton, she replied: "I checked the file and spoke with counsel involved who confirmed that they are not aware of an order sealing the file. I found no order on the file. Should you require any document from it you must contact the supervisor, Mrs Hunt, who will advise you of the charges."
With renewed optimism, I sent my researcher back to the court-house but, once again, an employee at the court said that no information could be provided because the case was sealed, notwithstanding the fact that the court employee's boss, i.e. Donna Newton, had told me it wasn't, which was confirmed by others involved with the case.
For all of the promotional material that the Bahamas wants to put out claiming it is a sophisticated and credible international financial center, the conduct of the Bahamas authorities, particularly the police and employees at Bahamas Supreme Court, in the case of Hywel Jones indicates that it isn't.
The mark of any jurisdiction is not that illegal acts are committed there but what the authorities do when such activity occurs and is brought to their attention.
By that standard, the Bahamas is a miserable failure.