Stafford Sands entered Bahamian politics in 1937. This was in an era before Members of the Assembly, were paid, and those appointed as Cabinet Ministers, could not be engaged in private business employment. For Cabinet Ministers, the sole job, had to be the government job.
When the topic of remuneration came up in the Assembly in 1942, the proposal was met with howls of laughter. Not only was the colony in the middle of a debt crisis, it also had pressing war obligations to be met. Besides, the thinking at that time was being a member of the Assembly and Legislature, was a duty as a citizen, whose time should be given freely. How you made your money, as long as it wasn’t illegal, was your own private business.
Sands took this to heart. Stafford was making so much money as deal facilitator and lawyer to wealthy foreigners, and those seeking licences and business contracts in the islands, that when salaries were eventually voted on and approved, it became small change for Sands. As the mid 1950s, rolled in, Sands’s government salary became mere lunch money.
By 1965, Sir Stafford Sands, was easily, the most important person in the sphere of the Bahamas. He overshadowed every other member of his UBP Party by far.
(The Orlando Sentinel Wednesday 17 February,1965)
1950 – Stafford Sands – Lawyer for Grand Bahama Holiday Resort Butlins
“In Nassau, the Bahamas, where winding up proceedings for the camp re-open to-day after being twice adjourned, Mr. Stafford Sands, attorney for Butlins, agreed that an offer had been received from a group of Americans, but declines to give names until a decision is reached.”
(The Derby Evening Telegraph, Monday, November 20, 1950)
1957 – Stafford Sands – Lawyer, trustee and spokesperson for the wealthy Sigrist Family.
“Miss Frederika Sigrist (17), the London-born heiress left Nassau, Bahamas “properly chaperoned” for her marriage to Gregg Juarez (32), an interior decorator, the Sigrist family lawyer, Mr. Stafford Sands, said yesterday.
Mr. Sands, one of three trustees of the £2,000,000 Sigrist estate said she had not eloped.”
(The Birmingham Post, England, Friday February 1, 1957)
1962 Election win emboldens Sands
Emboldened by the election returns in 1962, Sands steamrolls deal and deal acting as both private lawyer, private consultant, and Minister of Finance and Tourism.
The defeat of PLP founder and Chairman Henry Taylor to UBP Leader Roland Symonette, and the return of the UBP as the government of the Bahamas prompted Stafford Sands to take credit for bringing in votes for women. Sands conveniently forgot that it was the PLP who pushed for election reform, universal suffrage and votes for women.
They gave Stafford Sands the last word “We came here as successful pirates—now we are successful businessmen and the people have realised it. The women are voting for the first time, and, in what I must admit is the first really free election, the women realised we have brought prosperity here.”
(The Sphere, London December 15, 1962)
1964 and 1965 Stafford Sands Lawyer, consultant and deal maker for gangsters
Mary Carter Paint Company which later changes its name to Resorts International, a near bankrupt paint company, which no one every heard of, becomes a front company for gangsters. With the help of their lawyer, consultant Stafford Sands, they buy hotel and casino operations on Paradise Island.
Sands, acting as lawyer and consultant for Wallace Groves paid $1,091,900 in fees to secure deals on gambling casinos.
By 1965, it would be the expert legal skills and government position of Stafford Sands who would lock the Bahamas into an irrevocable deal with Groves and his successors until 2054!
(The Tampa Bay Times August 1969)
1967 – The Earth crumbles under Sands’ feet
The election defeat of the UBP in January 1967, put Sands in panic mode. He knew the newly elected PLP government would make good on a campaign promise, to reveal all the corruption and all the dirty dealings, he, as head deal maker had been involved in. A commission of enquiry was coming.
Sands, not short of money or connections, hastily made an application for residency as far away from the Bahamas as he could get. Sands declared residency in Spain. The reasons why soon became clear.
(The Beacon Journal December 1967)
By July 1967, just six short months after the UBP lost the majority seats in the House of Assembly, Sands had already been living a self-exiled existence in Madrid, Spain.
He had been there for more than a month when a letter, of few words and explanation, written by him, was received by the Speaker of the House of Assembly.
Sir Stafford made the most extraordinary statement. He “was not prepared to be a paid politician.”
(The Palm Beach Post, Wednesday 5 July 1967)
Why was it so important for Sir Stafford to quickly declare himself non-resident in the Bahamas?
It had everything to do with legislation he himself helped pass as Minister of Finance. Sands knew very well that if he remained in the Bahamas, the fallout from any potential inquiry into his business dealings, as a politician and minister of the government, might have entailed turning over his bank accounts. During his testimony at the 1967 Commission, Sands steadfastly refused to provide personal bank statements. By quitting the party and his country for good, Sands was able to siphon out his money without exchange or currency controls.
(Kansas City Times, Tuesday July 11, 1967)
(The Observer, London, Sunday 26 November, 1967)
In London, newspapers were quick to exonerate their man, British appointed Governor, Sir Ralph Grey and disavow any prior knowledge, some may have supposed he had of the goings on in the Bahamas.
It would have been a terrible stain on Britain had their man known anything and did nothing, or even worse, he knew and participated.