by Larry Smith
By impunity we mean the exemption from punishment for acts that undermine the ethical foundations of our society, or that misuse public goods for private gain. The kind of bad role modelling our leaders are so fond of, and which many believe contributes to the rising crime rate.
Bahamians are no better or worse at this universal pastime than other nationalities, we hasten to add. But the difference lies in the fact that we seem to have no will whatsoever to impose consequences on our elites when they abuse power or engage in corrupt activities.
In America over the last two decades more than 20,000 public officials and private individuals have been convicted of corruption crimes. And a few years ago, British parliamentarians who ripped off public money by claiming false expenses had to resign, and many were jailed.
Long-serving German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was disgraced over secret campaign donations. In 2011 French president Jacques Chirac was convicted of embezzling public funds, and the following year former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was convicted of tax fraud. Their exalted positions did not save them from disrepute.
In the Bahamas, only one minor case has ever been brought under the Prevention of Bribery Act - that of MP Wilbert Moss in 1989. Prior to that there was the 1984 Commission of Inquiry into drug trafficking, when international pressure led to the resignation of a few law enforcement officers and politicians, the prosecution of some small fry for perjury, and firing of a magistrate for collusion. Those at the top, however, continued in power for years afterwards.
In 2014, we heard from US judicial sources about a so far unnamed Bahamian official who received hundreds of thousands of dollars during the last Ingraham administration to ensure that a multi-million-dollar BEC contract went to a particular bidder. The attorney-general says the matter is still under investigation.