Sir Lynden Pindling, the first Prime Minister of the Bahamas, died on August 26, 2000, after a long battle with prostate cancer. But, if truth be told, Pindling had been fighting a different type of cancer, ever since, 1973.
It was this cancer that really took him.
Insidious and incurable, it was an unexpected malignant disease, which stained the one thing Pindling held, as the most fought for thing in his world, his reputation.
Fate would fashion Pindling’s reputation for him. Days and nights, sitting alone in his room in England, so far away from home, studying hard to be a lawyer, trying to make his parents proud, strengthened his resolve, to help change the status quo, which had existed in the Bahamas, since 1492. Then being chosen to join a fledgling political party, and rising to become Leader was a dream, even the law student, could have never imagined. Hearing people chanting his name. Waiting for his appearances. Holding decisions for his approval. A Moses figure had been born in the minds of countless thousands.
But an unexpected cancer came, it tarnished his legacy, and cast a pall over the entire Bahamas, damaging the country to its core. Pindling was like a father, a Moses, a leader and deliverer.
“My reputation, my reputation! I’ve lost my reputation, the longest-living and truest part of myself! Everything else in me is just animal-like. Oh, my reputation, Iago, my reputation!”
From the play Othello, William Shakespeare
In 1971, someone came to Nassau who knew nothing or could care less about the long history of the Bahamas.
And once he touched Pindling, nothing would ever be the same again.
That cancer was Robert Lee Vesco.
1970 – Economic trouble, UBP Corruption and the Blackest of the Blacks
By 1970, it had only been three years since a black majority government had taken executive control of the Bahamas. Newspapers across the world, would let no one forget that. Many still couldn’t believe the rollercoaster events since 1967. Colour and money determined everything. The Bahamas was being observed closely by the United States, for any signs of Communist leanings, or a push towards nationalisation, like what happened in Cuba.
Premier Lynden Pindling was deemed the “blackest of the blacks.”
In 1967, the PLP inherited a country on the brink of financial disaster. The UBP knew this, but no one else did. Their economic strategy was to sell as much land, and opportunity as they could, to as many wealthy foreign investors as they could. It was a type of Economic Ponzi Scheme. One glittering investor, drew in others and so on. Everything would be fine, as long as the investor Ponzi cycle kept moving.
The illusion of Bahamian prosperity was made.
There was only problem, 85 percent of population was left out.
It was probably knowing that economic prosperity for The Bahamas was but a mere illusion, which drove the UBP to grab what they could get, as foreign investors were happy to dish out money, for a piece of Bahamian rock.
In 1970, the Bahamas had already gained the reputation of being a corrupt society. It was gained under the UBP, and the revelations that came out of the 1967 Commission of Inquiry.
A harsh reality was creeping in as well, as a frustrated Bahamian society began to realise that economic prosperity would be harder, and longer to achieve, than they had realised.
(The Daily Telegram Wednesday 07 January, 1970)
1971 – Robert Vesco Comes to the Bahamas
Robert Vesco’s presence in The Bahamas was like a malignant cancer. There is just no other way to describe it. Everywhere Vesco went and everyone he touched became diseased.
Foreign investors come in many forms to the Bahamas. Some just want to buy land and settle down quietly. Some want to start a little cottage business, and be part of simple island life.
But then, there are others, who want to be in the select centre of inner circle politics. Oh yes, they may drive luxury cars, and live in big houses, but power is not in their grasp. When this type of foreign investor comes to a small island nation, of shanty houses on one end and luxury hotels on the other, they soon realise the power of their money. It goes to their heads. Suddenly drunk with being so close to government power, and Bahamians so young in the world, a man like Robert Vesco came to Nassau like a Goliath, with lots of money.
It wasn’t long before Robert was able to move Bahamian politicians around like chess pieces on a game board. Vesco needed big approvals for big businesses, and for this, naive island boys who grew up running barefoot on hot sand, who could know nothing of the corrupt world Vesco had already created before he came to Nassau, fell right into his trap.
VESCO STOLE $224 million FROM IOS MUTUAL FUND and ITS INVESTORS
When Robert Vesco came to the Bahamas he billed himself as a financier. He had millions at his disposal, and said he wanted to use the money to create opportunities in the small island nation. In reality, Vesco was a fugitive from justice. He was wanted on federal charges surrounding his absconding with $224 million from an international mutual fund called Investors Overseas Services.
(Home News New Brunswick, Monday December 4, 1972)
ROBERT VESCO BRIBES US PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON.
Vesco’s $200,000 given as campaign contribution to Nixon used to fund Watergate burglary.
Vesco wanted political influence to sway SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission investigation) into him.
Watergate brought down Nixon.
President Richard Nixon’s nephew Donald Nixon Jr. worked for Vesco. Nixon’s brother accompanied Vesco when he fled to Bahamas and by 1975 to Costa Rica where Vesco was living.
By June 1995, Vesco and Donald Nixon would be under arrest in Cuba for money laundering and drug dealing. In July 1995, Cuba allowed Nixon’s nephew to leave the country.
(Tallahassee Democrat Monday 26 June 1995)
COSTA RICAN PRESIDENT BECOMES TAINTED WITH BRIBES BY ROBERT VESCO
Vesco moved to Costa Rica in 1972, jumping back and forth between there and the Bahamas. Soon, Vesco was doing what he did best, buying political influence and spreading money around.
At first in 1975, Costa Rican President Daniel Oduber refused to oust Vesco despite a petition to deport him. Vesco had started a political newspaper in Costa Rica.
By 1977, after bribery scandals involving then Costa Rican President Jose Figueres whom Vesco loaned $2.15 million for his private business, and then current President Oduber, whom Vesco loan money to his political party, Robert Vesco was to get out of Costa Rica. Figueres was ousted as party leader because of the money from Vesco.
(The Miami News Friday 10 June 1977)
VESCO CANCER FEEDS ON POLITICIANS AND A NEW NATION ALIKE
In 1969, Donald B. Aberle, a Bahamian born in Australia, organised a trust company called Columbus Trust Company Ltd in the Bahamas. His lawyer and lawyer for the trust company was Kendal W. Nottage. Nottage was in private practice in 1969, took shares in the Columbus Trust Company as partial payment for legal services which included obtaining a license for it. This was a standard lawyer’s job. Nottage got 5,000 shares. In 1970 the shares were valued at $1.
Nottage said he purchased Pindling’s legal practice and in a gesture of gratitude, Nottage said he advised Pindling to buy shares for himself. Nottage says Pindling agrees and pays Nottage $1 a share at 5,000 shares.
By 1983, according to auditors Touché Ross and Co. who were handling the liquidation of Columbus Trust Co. after the Bahamas government voided its license in spring 1983, the Trust Company had managed $50 million to $100 million for more than 200 clients.
In 1980, Anthony Bowe, a Bahamian citizen, who was a director and secretary of Columbus Trust was indicted in Pittsburgh as a Co-conspirator in a drug smuggling operation.
Nottage said, that he and Pindling, decided to sell their shares in 1982, after the United States has branded the Trust Co a money laundering operation.
Nottage said he had arranged for the bank’s founder Aberle to buy back the 10,000 shares at $3 per share. The purchase was approved by the Central Bank of the Bahamas.
However, by the end of 1971, as Vesco makes his appearance in Nassau, Columbus Trust Company shares are sold to Butler’s Bank Ltd. Nassau.
Robert Vesco in 1971 buys Butler’s Bank through International Bancorp.
International Bancorp, the Americans believe is being used to shift the $224 million Vesco looted from IOS (Investor Overseas Services) investors.
International Bancorp buys Bahamas Commonwealth Bank. International Bancorp Bahamas lists its sole assets as Butler’s Bank.
Bahamas Commonwealth Bank absorbs Butler’s Bank. Butler’s Bank disappears. Commonwealth Bank is born.
Commonwealth Bank begins giving loans to black Bahamians, like it was handing out candy. Anyone and everyone got loans.
Vesco was laundering his stolen money through short term loans to hard up black Bahamians who couldn’t get loans from anywhere else.
(The Miami News Tuesday October 18, 1983)
VESCO ARRESTED IN NASSAU November 1973
Robert Vesco was arrested at his office at Bahamas Commonwealth Bank under an extradition order set down by the United States.
(The Daily Forum, Wednesday December 7, 1973)
(The Sedahlia Democrat Thursday 22 November 1973)
1996 – Vesco GETS A 13 year SENTENCE IN A CUBAN PRISON
By 1996, Robert Vesco was even accused of trying bribe the brother of President Jimmy Carter
By that time as well, Vesco had made a new friend. Robert Vesco became part of a drug cartel running cocaine through the Bahamas with his new friend, Carlos Ledher.
Carlos Ledher was the infamous and murderous head of the Colombian Medellin cocaine cartel.
Vesco now 60 years old, who had moved to Cuba, was charged by the Cuban authorities of economic crimes against the Communist government in the production and marketing of a drug known at TX.
Robert Vesco died at age 71, from cancer, on 23 November 2007 in Havana Cuba.
(The Sun Sentinel Wednesday August 28, 1996)
Pindling’s reputation never fully recovered
By the 1992 General Elections, when his party lost the elections, for the very first time, since they had been elected in 1967, the Vesco cancer had engulfed Pindling. He was older. Thinner. Tired from fighting, and facing backlash everywhere he turned.
Pindling’s reputation, by that time, had been rendered almost to dust.
For Robert Vesco and his friend, drug dealer, Carlos Ledher, setting up the young lawyer who would become a Moses type figure to his people, must have been something they laughed at. The Bahamas was nothing to them but a place to park their money and their drugs. They levelled allegations after allegations against Pindling. Convicted drug dealers swore under oath that it was all true. Pindling denied it all, over and over again.
By 1983, just like in 1967, another Commission of Inquiry would be convened in Nassau.
When it was all over, again, just like in 1967, every foundation in the Bahamas would be left crumbling.
The cancer that was, Robert Lee Vesco, had done its damage on US President Richard Nixon, two Costa Rican Presidents, and tainted US President Jimmy Carter.
The Vesco cancer also took Bahamian Prime Minister Lynden Pindling, long before, he actually died.