In 1946, Walter Sidney Chaney, an English Barrister, had just landed his dream job. He was on his way to Nassau, as the new Assistant Attorney General and Magistrate of the Bahama Islands. He could hardly believe his good fortune. Chaney was about to live the life of sun, sand, sea and tax free.
But shortly after coming to the Bahamas, Chaney found that the salary of a public servant, even as a lawyer, didn’t compare to what could be earned in the private sector. By mid 1947, Chaney handed in his notice to the Bahamas government.
He no longer wanted to be Assistant Attorney General and Magistrate.
Walter Chaney was after bigger fish to fry.
A NEW INDUSTRY TAKES SHAPE IN BAHAMAS
As early as 1890, something remarkable was happening within the legal profession in the Bahamas. Thanks to the income tax free status of the Bahamas, a lucrative new industry began to take shape.
Lawyers, the shrewd and entrepreneurial ones, that is, were parlaying their knowledge of corporate law to expand into the new lucrative business of assisting the rich, of other countries, in tax avoidance.
Criminal law, land law, marital dissolution and conveyances brought in some money, but when the creation of shell companies began, it became a veritable goldmine for Bahamian lawyers.
For a couple of days work with a fountain pen in hand, filling in paperwork, and stamping documents, then making the short walk over to the Registry Office, Bay Street lawyers were raking in huge fees.
All the Bahamian lawyer had to do next, was to get the local engraver to make a nice shiny metal plate sign naming the new incorporated company. This would be nailed to the front siding of the little law office. Everything was legal and above board… in the Bahamas that is.
Bahamian lawyers soon became the most valuable commodity in the islands for the rich in America who wanted to preserve their wealth from the ravages of US income tax.
By 1946, when Walter Chaney arrived in Nassau, the new Bahamian economic employment industry of shell corporations, through which business and personal incomes flowed into, but no actual business was being conducted, in the islands, soon became the next best fashion accessory for the rich. If you were wealthy and didn’t have a foreign registered corporation or two in your portfolio, then darling you just weren’t in the big league.
The Bahamas Legislature, which had long comprised of many local lawyers, knew that if they didn’t protect this lucrative industry for Bahamians only, they would lose out to foreign lawyers. Laws regarding competition in the legal profession were not up for negotiation. They were strict and final.
This didn’t stop Walter Chaney from trying to overturn local laws designed specifically to protect Bahamian lawyers from unwanted foreign competition.
BAHAMAS ORDERS UNDESIRABLE DEPORTED
When foreign expat Chaney, quit his government job sometime in June/July 1947, he went straight into private practice. It was a short-lived venture. His attempt to hang his own shingle erupted into a legal fight, and the threat to take the ruling all the way to the Privy Council.
At first, Chaney was politely asked to leave. He didn’t. After resigning his job, he no longer had a valid work permit to engage in any business or profession in the colony.
The government was then forced to order him to leave the colony, as an undesirable, by August 2, 1947.
Chaney in turn filed a writ of his intention to sue the Bahamas for damages.
The case was quickly heard before Chief Justice Oswald Bancroft. Bancroft quickly made mincemeat of the writ.
(The Tampa Times, Wednesday 20th August, 1947)
CHANEY SAID IT WAS ALL JEALOUSY BY OTHER LAWYERS
Foreign competition in the legal profession would have severely hampered the prospects for Bahamian professionals, in the tiny city of Nassau. By the 1940s, more and more white and black lawyers, were being called to the Bahamas Bar. With so much foreign business beginning to flow through The Bahamas, expatriate lawyers would have represented grossly unfair competition on the islands.
Chaney’s contention of jealousy was neither here nor there.