The Caribbean region stretches from the Bahamas to Trinidad and Tobago and can be said to include non-island countries from Belize to Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. It is home to some of the wealthiest politicians in the world – yet, the ever-popular posts on social media about the richest or best paid in the region tend to ignore most of the millionaire and billionaire politicians of Trinidad and Tobago and other islands.
It is interesting to see the net worth of these politicians, and shocking that some were of average wealth, only becoming millionaires or billionaires since taking office. Meanwhile, the citizens who voted them into power have become poorer, more disempowered and more disfranchised.
How did these politicians get so wealthy?
I believe some have done it legitimately, as professionals in other fields. Others have profited as politicians, using insider information and receiving contracts through proxies, such as wives, friends and colleagues, and some through kickbacks and bribes.
One ongoing corruption case in the region involves Michael Misick, premier of Turks and Caicos, a British overseas territory. Misick resigned in 2009 when a UK commission found a high probability of systemic corruption amounting to £75m in the sale of crown lands.
Misick later fled to Brazil but was extradited in 2014. There have been many similar allegations of corruption in the region over the last five decades, for example in Haiti. And let us not forget the allegations against Jack Warner, former Fifa vice-president and national security minister in a previous Trinidad and Tobago government. He is still fighting extradition to the US on bribery and corruption charges.
Norman Saunders, the former chief minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands who was convicted in a plot to use the islands as a drug-smuggling way station to the United States, was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison.
Saunders, 41, was convicted July 19 of conspiracy to travel and actual travel in furtherance of a crime, but was acquitted of actual drug importation charges.
Stafford Missick, 47, Saunders’ minister of commerce and development, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, following his conviction on a cocaine- importation charge.