Only those who had been living under a rock, in the 1920s, didn’t know who ‘Scarface’ Al Capone was. Al Capone was the gangster of gangsters. Called a businessmen by those who didn’t want to be on the other end of his machine gun, Capone was the biggest bootlegger in American history, a brutal gangster and a near psychopath. Operating from the mean streets of Chicago, Capone had countless murdered, as he sought king position on the alcohol trade during the infamous years of American Prohibition.
It is not surprising then that Scarface Capone had ties with the rum running capital of the time, the Bahamas. The Bahamas was a bootleg mecca from which the fortunes of many future prominent Bahamian families were made.
On March 6, 1929, in an article in the Chicago Tribune, Al Capone, then sick with pneumonia, was bragging about his 500 acre island in the Bahamas. Capone admitted that he travelled to the Bahamas three to four times a week on his hydro-aeroplane. Capone was due to appear before a Chicago Grand Jury six days later on March 12, 1929.
(Chicago Daily Tribune Wednesday March 6, 1929)
Just a few weeks later, on Wednesday March 29, 1929, the British authorities in Nassau quickly issued a statement that Capone was not welcomed to take up exile there, as he fought impending government prosecution on rum running, racketeering and murder charges. Blood and bodies trailed Al. He became famous for ordering the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, where seven people were machine gunned to death in Chicago.
What the Bahamas was really afraid of was the murder rampage that followed Scarface Capone wherever he went, would follow him to the Bahamas. Capone wasn’t the only US rum running gangster either. Others who wanted to take his business were constantly trying to kill him. They would surely follow him to Bahamas.
Prohibition rum running was an incredible boom period. It had paid off the Bahamas government debt, created local millionaires and boosted tourism in the islands. Money and good times was now back in the Bahamas. Capone’s reputation would have put the growing tourist reputation of the islands in peril.
But was the statement made by the British in Nassau too late? Capone had already said, a few weeks earlier that, he had purchased an island and was planning on building a health resort there.
(The Reading Times, Wednesday March 27, 1929)
History tells us that the Americans finally got Capone to prison. They didn’t get him on illegal alcohol, murder or racketeering. The US Government finally got Scarface in prison on tax evasion. They said Capone owed $214,864 in taxes on $1,038,654 in unreported gross income. Capone went to prison in May 1932 at the age of 33. It was in prison that he was diagnosed with syphilis and gonorrhoea. He was suffering from withdrawal symptoms from a cocaine addiction.
Contrary to popular thinking, Capone did not die in prison. Scarface Capone was released from prison in 1939. He was then referred to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for treatment for late stage syphilis. After treatment, he moved to Palm Island, Florida.
By 1946, the ravages of syphilis had robbed Capone of everything. He had the mental age of a 12 year old. He died, at his mansion in Palm Island, Florida, of a heart attack on January 21, 1947.
The 1984 mega movie hit, Scarface starring Al Pacino, was based partly on the real life character of Al Capone.