When the year 1967 dawned in the Bahamas, no one in the country could have imagined how it would end. The ruling party, the United Bahamian Party, had expectation that everything to be business as usual. It wasn’t. 1967 would become one of the most significant periods in the nation’s modern social and political history. General elections were held on 10th January 1967. The result would shock the nation. A tie between the Progressive Liberal Party and the United Bahamian Party caused a political explosion. Both parties had won 18 seats. In a reversal of the previous general election (in which the PLP received the most votes but the UBP won the most seats), this time the PLP won fewer votes but was able to form the country’s first black-led government with the support of the one Labour Party MP Randol Fawkes.
Excerpt from Life Magazine 2nd March 1967
“But the Boy who held more power and influence than anyone else in the colony–more than either the royal governor or the premier–was the Minister of Finance and Tourism, a brilliant hulking man with a drifting blue glass eye, who looked as though he might have stepped out of the Maltese Falcon. He is Sir Stafford Sands, 53, multimillionaire lawyer, gourmet, collector of antique paperweights and of Yankee dol-/lars. In the halcyon pre-election days, nothing involving any substantial exchange of money was likely to take place in the Bahamas without the consent and support of Sir Stafford, who also often expected a whopping legal fee.
Bigtime gambling was conveyed to the islands in 1964 by Sir Stafford, and it has proved to be a bigger tourist attraction than all the sun and sea and French perfume and duty-free liquor put together.
In 1965, its first full year of operation, the Lucayan Beach Hotel casino on Grand Bahama spent $494,552 on chartered flights, just to bring in freeloading planeloads of “high-rollers”— big-spending gamblers with blue-chip credit ratings-who had been invited from all over the U.S. Another $935,268 was allocated to provide hotel and ship accommodations for such pampered guests.
Sir Stafford’s name is not listed on the board of directors of Bahamas Amusements, Ltd., which controls the islands’ big casinos, but neither are the names of Meyer Lansky and his confederates in the Mafia: Steve Maggadino, head of the Buffalo Cosa Nostra “family”; Angelo Bruno, director of the Philadelphia branch; Frank Costello of New York, Joe Adonis of New York and Italy; and Santo Trafficante, the boss in Tampa. Yet U.S. lawmen are convinced that they are getting a big cut out of the casinos’ profits. Specifically, notorious frontmen for Meyer Lansky are raking in 30% of the net profits at the Lucayan Beach Hotel’s Monte Carlo Room—a piece of the action that now runs to over $1 million a year–and a larger cut, 15% of the gross, from Nassau’s Bahamian Club.
Sir Stafford admits he has met Lansky, long-time associate of the late Bugsy Siegal and Lucky Luciano. As Sir Stafford recalls it, the mobster, a specialist in casinos, came to call on him in his Bay Street offices in 1960 and offered him $1 million to his credit in a secret Swiss bank account in/ exchange for exclusive gambling rights on the islands. Sir Stafford says he indignantly turned the offer down. Yet, when bigtime gambling finally did come four years later, Lansky’s henchmen were dealing the cards.”
By August 1967, a royal commission of inquiry was well underway to investigate corruption charges against members of the former ruling government in relation to gambling, casino and hotel licensing. The star witness was the big man himself, the former minister of finance and tourism, Sir Stafford Sands.
The goings on in the Bahamas certainly drew the attention of the international press and the country making headlines. This story from the Courier Journal, Louisville Kentucky – Saturday August 26, 1967 relates to a day of testimony by Stafford Sands.
NASSAU, Bahamas, —Sir Stafford Sands, former minister of finance and tourism in the Bahamas, refused yesterday to disclose his bank accounts to a royal commission investigating gambling.
Earlier in the day, Sands admitted he received $515,900 in one payment and $10,000 per month in 1964 from companies controlled by multimillionaire Wallace Groves.
And Sands told the five-man commission Groves and his companies paid him more than $1 million in the last 19 years. Sands made these disclosures to correct testimony he gave Thursday, when he said “I never collected $1 million from any or all of them (companies) in aggregate.”
He said Thursday that the had worked for Groves more than 20 years but never received a $1 million from the development.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST?
“If the commission is to carry out its duties, it is necessary to learn how money is paid by the (gambling) casinos.” said W. Gordon Bryce, the commission counsel. “Whose names are on the back accounts? Will you produce those in confidence to the commission?”
“No,” Sands replied, “because they would disclose my personal and my clients affairs. I am not prepared to disclose my bank accounts.”
Bryce grilled Sands on a possible conflict of interest since he occupied high positions in government and represented Groves at the same time.
Sands said the $515,900 payment was in the form of a cashier’s or manager’s check from the Irving Trust Co. of New York. He said some of it was placed in the Royal Bank of Canada in Nassau and “Some went elsewhere.”
Bryce asked if Sands would give those records to the commission in confidence. His reply was that he would have to ask his lawyer.
Several members of the commission closely questioned Sands about letters he exchanged with companies proposing to start gambling or other business operations in the Bahamas.