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By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
BAHAMAS Customs is bringing Supreme Court actions against three "couriers" who have failed to submit the correct duties and paperwork to clear imported shipments, the Comptroller yesterday telling Tribune Business that problems uncovered at its Odyssey Aviation station have now been corrected.
Glenn Gomez said problems created by "a huge increase" in the number of couriers and brokers attempting to clear goods through the fixed base operator's (FBO) Customs station, plus false and incorrect declarations, had been rectified from January 2011.
Acknowledging that Aquapure had found itself in an "unfortunate situation" of hav ...
Violent crime has increased by more than 15 percent in all but two categories in the first 10 months of 2011, with murder and rape representing the most dramatic increases, according to police statistics.
Overall, crime has increased by 10 percent.
"We do have an unacceptable level of crime in our country," said Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest, who tabled the crime statistics in the House of Assembly yesterday. "There are far too many crimes against the person and crimes against property."
As it relates to crimes against the person, statistics show that during the period January 1 to October 11, 2011, cases of murder, attempted murder, rape, attempted rape, armed robbery, robbery, and attempted robbery all increased.
Murder was up 44 percent, according to the statistics.
There were 104 murders recorded up to October 11 compared to the 72 murders committed during the same period last year. However since then, another murder was recorded, bringing the count to 105 for the year so far.
The cases of attempted murder grew by 29 percent, with nine recorded this year compared to the seven recorded in the first 10 months of 2010.
Reported rapes grew by 38 percent, with 80 rapes recorded this year, compared to the 58 rapes reported during the same period in 2010.
There were 18 percent more attempted rapes -- 26 compared to 22.
Armed robberies increased by 10 percent.
There were 704 cases up to October 11 compared to the 639 recorded during the same period last year.
Robberies increased by 16 percent -- from 237 to 274.
There were 27 attempted robberies up to October 11, an eight percent increase over the same period last year.
Manslaughter decreased by 50 percent -- from two cases to one.
Unlawful sexual intercourse cases decreased by 30 percent -- from 183 to 129.
As it regards property crimes, the statistics show that there were 2,502 housebreakings up to October 11, an increase of nine percent over the same period last year.
Stealing from vehicles increased by 58 percent with 1,868 such reports up to October 11.
Stolen vehicles increased by seven percent -- from 960 to 1,031.
There was a 12 percent decrease in burglary matters with 258 cases reported this year.
The figures also show a 23 percent decrease in shopbreaking with 752 cases reported this year.
There was a one percent decrease in stealing with 1,503 cases reported this year.
Turnquest said firearms were used in 72 percent of the 105 murders committed so far this year and knives were used in 15 percent of the cases.
Additionally, 66 percent of the 105 murders were directly related to criminal enterprises with the motives including drugs, conflict and retaliation, Turnquest said.
Another nine percent were related to domestic violence and 15 percent of the murder cases were robbery-related.
Turnquest also revealed that the police force has closed 54 of the murder cases -- a detection rate of 52 percent.
Turnquest said in order to combat crime, all Bahamians must come together.
He added that the government is attempting to do its part.
He said the government has a "reasonable, coherent, co-ordinated and calculated" strategy for dealing with crime.
The government has introduced the Evidence Amendment Bill, the Penal Code Amendment Bill, the Criminal Procedure Code Amendment Bill, the Court of Appeal Amendment Bill, the Pawnbrokers and Second-hand Dealers Bill, the Customs Management Bill, the Criminal Evidence Witness Anonymity Amendment Bill, Sexual Offences Amendment Bill, and the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Bill.
Police have seen fewer people arrested on gun crimes released on bail since the government strengthened the country's crime laws, according to Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade.
Greenslade commended the Office of the Attorney General for its work in overhauling the Penal Code and other crime laws, changes that he said have kept more criminals behind bars.
Before the legislative changes were made, Greenslade bemoaned the fact that many suspected criminals were released on bail and arrested soon after on other offenses.
"There was a time when I complained about the fact that we'd arrest a man or woman with a gun, take that person before court and leave it there. A few weeks later we'd have reason to re-arrest that same person on the streets, is how I said it. I cannot make that same statement today," Greenslade said at a press briefing earlier this week.
"What I can tell you is a person arrested with that gun today is remanded to prison, is tried quickly and is sentenced and [will spend] the full time. We as an organization are very happy about that," he added.
Greenslade said he had a meeting with National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest earlier this week and was encouraged by the results the new crime laws have produced.
"I was totally amazed by the level of productivity and traction that we got from about October, well actually much earlier in the year. The figures are there to show," said Greenslade.
In October, the House of Assembly passed amendments to the Penal Code, Bail Act, Court of Appeal Act, Evidence Act, Criminal Procedure Code, Firearms Act, Dangerous Drugs Act, Customs Management Act, and Sexual Offenses Act. It also passed the Pawn Brokers and Second Hand Dealers Act and Criminal Evidence Witness Anonymity Act.
The following is a Communication by Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham, Prime Minister on the Anti-Crime Legislation Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill.
I wish to advise of the tabling for First Reading, a number of Bills.
Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill
Amendments proposed to the Criminal Procedure Code will when enacted:...
By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
THE Bahamas is 'far behind' the world when it comes to Customs procedures, a broker yesterday telling Tribune Business: "I wouldn't hold my breath" over planned reforms.
Forrester Carroll, managing director of Expert Customs Brokers in Freeport, told Tribune Business: "The clearing of goods is the main part of what Customs does. We have shipments that could be on the dock for a week to 10 working days, and that's ridiculous in this modern world. It means that the merchants can't get it on the shelf. In an importing nation where we import everything we consume, it's ridiculous and we ...
Calling his address last night "one of the more distressing national addresses" he has ever given, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham announced an amnesty period for illegal weapons to be turned in, tougher penalties for people found guilty of gun crimes and the addition of two gun courts.
Ingraham advised that for a period of 30 days following the introduction of amendments to the Firearms Act tomorrow, all citizens and other persons are requested to turn in to police any and all unlicensed firearms in their possession.
He said that after November 4, anyone convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm or ammunition will, upon conviction, be imprisoned for a minimum of four years.
"I highlight the fact that the power of magistrates to impose sentences is being increased from five to seven years and that conviction on drug and gun related offenses may attract the maximum sentence of seven years," Ingraham said.
The prime minister added, "It is our firm conviction that removal of the unlicensed firearms from our society will substantially reduce the level of crime and pain in our society.
"Toward this end, the police force is strengthening and expanding the reach and intensity of action by its special task forces dealing with firearms and drug houses."
Ingraham also advised that the penalty for the possession and sale of drugs discovered within one mile of a school will be six years.
In addition to amendments to the Firearms Act and the Dangerous Drugs Act, Ingraham announced that there will be new legislation for the control and regulation of pawnbrokers and second hand dealers (eg. cash for gold and scrap metal operators).
The legislation will add new teeth to police initiatives to identify and shut down drug houses and to closely regulate pawnbrokers and second hand dealers "so as to stop the sale of stolen property", Ingraham said.
Regarding the additional gun courts, the prime minister said this will bring to four the number of courts dedicated to hearing matters of individuals charged with drug and gun crimes.
He also announced that the Department of Customs is increasing the number and frequency of random searches of general imports of household appliances and dry goods, vehicles and or components and parts.
"It will also require improving the tracking of weapons entering the country legitimately on visiting pleasure craft so as to ensure that each and every firearm departs The Bahamas on the vessel on which it arrived," Ingraham said.
The prime minister's national address came amid grave national concerns about the high level of violent crime in the country. One hundred and four murders have been recorded in The Bahamas so far this year, compared to the 94 that were recorded for all of 2010.
"We are confronted by criminals -- a criminal class of older, seasoned offenders as well as a crop of bloody-minded juvenile offenders and thugs - who seem to believe that they can evade the rule of law with little or no regard for life and other people's property," the prime minister said.
"For some, life is cheap; our common welfare is of no value. I share your anguish and anger, whether you or a family member or neighbor has been a victim of crime. This vicious assault on crime affects us all.
"It destroys lives and damages livelihoods."
He said the legislation that will be introduced in Parliament in coming days will "aid in the shared battle we are waging against criminality".
Specialist Police Consultants
Ingraham announced that the government will in the coming months institute special training programs to enhance the investigatory skills of the police force.
"While such training is ongoing and typically takes place overseas, what is now proposed is to mount the courses locally with the assistance of specialist consultants," he said.
The prime minister also said, "A creeping culture of lawlessness has led to a tolerance of petty crimes, small theft and the defrauding of government and others which sometimes opens the doorway to tolerance of even more serious crimes.
"Adding fuel to the fire is the length of time it takes to bring some offenders to trial and or the relative ease with which bail is available to hardened criminals and known repeat offenders who have contributed significantly to the present wave of crime."
Ingraham announced plans to expand CCTV coverage, and noted that CCTV footage is admissable in court.
He said that in February of this year the government paid for two highly-equipped mobile command centers for the police force, and the first of the made-to-order units is ready for delivery.
Ingraham said training in the use of the mobile command center started yesterday.
"These specialty mobile police stations are an essential addition to our crime fighting arsenal," the prime minister said.
Basic features of the units include video recording capabilities, flat screen monitors for viewing, specialized recording equipment and high-tech police lighting, siren and public address systems.
Ingraham said the national address last night was distressing not mostly because of the murder count and high incidence of violent crime, as painful as those numbers are.
"It is what those numbers represent that is heart-breaking," he said.
"For all of our good fortune as a country, we have in significant ways lost a sense of ourselves and of what is essential. One writer reminds us that 'what is essential is invisible to the eye'."
The prime minister added, "While the bonds and threads of community may be invisible to the eye, their absence or presence is plain for all to see. We know that peace is not merely the absence of violence. Instead, we know that it is a sign of community and mutual respect.
"So, we long for something more than the outer trappings of material success. We long for something more, like community and fellowship. We long for something more, like peace and well-being."
Caribbean Police Commissioners will tackle head-on the vexing problems of crime, weapons and human trafficking, cyber crime and other areas of concern during a five-day conference at Atlantis, Paradise Island.
Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade said yesterday that the five-day conference of Caribbean commissioners is not only timely but needed, as one of the key issues that will be discussed is crime, a hot issue throughout the region.
Greenslade, along with the members of the government and commissioners of police from across the Caribbean, was on hand at the official opening of the 27th annual meeting of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police at Atlantis' Coral Towers yesterday.
He pointed out that the package of anti-crime bills passed in Parliament late last year had its genesis in the discussions on crime at last year's conference.
"The genesis of a lot of those changes were as a result of discussions between Caribbean commissioners, more specifically the commissioner from Cayman, Bermuda and indeed Jamaica who spoke to the business of anonymity legislation; the business of increasing the penalty for gun crimes and for targeting prolific offenders, and the need to ensure that the legislation has teeth so that we can get some traction," Greenslade said during a press conference after the official opening of the event.
Among the bills passed were the Evidence Amendment Bill, the Penal Code Amendment Bill, the Criminal Procedure Code Amendment Bill, the Court of Appeal Amendment Bill, the Pawnbrokers and Second-hand Dealers Bill, the Customs Management Bill, the Criminal Evidence Witness Anonymity Amendment Bill, the Sexual Offences Amendment Bill and the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Bill.
"One of the issues that will be given primacy will be the illicit trafficking of weapons and certainly the concomitant problems that result," said Greenslade.
"We will also be looking at problems around the investigation of cyber crime and as we extend that particular topic, high tech crime. Given the technological advances that we now see, that is a very complex, complicated arena to work in and certainly demands comparative advantage and tremendous skills. We will also be looking at the business of trafficking persons."
The conference was also held in The Bahamas last year and attracted police commissioners from over 20 Caribbean countries.
National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage pointed out during the press conference that Royal Bahamas Police and Defence Force officers will be working much more closely together in the war against crime than they have before.
"It's going to be based on intelligence policing," he said. "Obviously the police force has the primary role in the prevention of criminal activity and the defence force will have a supportive role. But how closely? As closely as necessary for us to achieve our objective."
The five-day conference ends on Friday.
After a near four-hour event to formally introduce the full Free National Movement (FNM) slate of candidates, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) leader Perry Christie released a statement last night hitting out at the government on crime.
"The FNM put on a big show," Christie said. "But underneath all the spectacle is a party with no clue about how to keep Bahamians safe."
In his speech at the launch held at the Wyndham Nassau Resort, Prime Minister and FNM leader Hubert Ingraham declared that his is a "clean and scandal free government".
He called the FNM "a safe bet".
"With the PLP you will be gambling with your future," Ingraham said.
"... If they win, you lose."
Ingraham also highlighted his government's achievements in office, pointing to various social programs and infrastructure projects he said have been transformative.
But Christie declared in his statement that, "what they have really delivered are record levels of violent crime".
"A government's first responsibility is to keep its citizens safe. Yet the murder rate has doubled under this FNM government," he said.
There were 127 murders recorded in 2011, and nine already for this year. There were 60 murders recorded in 2006; 79 in 2007; 74 in 2008; 87 in 2009 and 96 in 2010.
"They have failed to prevent crime, they have failed to prosecute crime, and they have failed to punish crime," Christie said.
"They have failed to invest in at-risk youth. They have failed to keep schools safe. They have failed to protect witnesses. They have failed to stem the avalanche of illegal weapons. They have failed to adequately patrol our borders."
Christie said the PLP believes a society-wide response is necessary to reduce violence.
"But we also believe the government should be leading the charge. There is no reason we cannot make dramatic progress in fighting crime - but it requires focus, expertise, resources, and innovative responses," he said.
"It requires a leader willing to bring law enforcement, business and civic leaders, clergy and educators together in a coordinated response."
Last fall, the government brought a package of crime bills as part of its overall response to the problem.
The House of Assembly passed the Evidence Amendment Bill, the Penal Code Amendment Bill, the Criminal Procedure Code Amendment Bill, the Court of Appeal Amendment Bill, the Pawnbrokers and Second-hand Dealers Bill, the Customs Management Bill, the Criminal Evidence Witness Anonymity Amendment Bill, Sexual Offences Amendment Bill, and the Dangerous Drugs Amendment Bill.
In his new year's address last week, Ingraham said just as The Bahamas has "faced down an international economic crisis not of our own making, we must beat back a domestic challenge for which we are all responsible".
"This challenge is a pattern of criminal behavior that so gravely distresses us all. Crime and its causes are multifaceted," the prime minister added.
"Accordingly, together with job creation, health and education, we recommit ourselves to aggressively combating criminal behavior so as to protect life and to secure law and order."
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Bahamas Customs was yesterday accused of delivering a "crushing blow to legitimate trade" by its refusal to clear trailers imported by Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) licencees unless they submitted to it reports on bonded goods sales, a former Chamber of Commerce president arguing this position was at odds with the Government's statement to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Christoper Lowe, the ex-Grand Bahama Chamber president, told Tribune Business that numerous GBPA licencees, including his own business, Kelly's (Freeport), had been either told directly or via their brokers that Customs would not clear their imports unless the ...
George Damianos is a top realtor in The Bahamas with more than 30 years of experience. He has spearheaded a number of high-profile sales, including British Colonial Hilton Hotel, Hurricane Hole Marina and Portside Condominium complex on Paradise Island, and countless high-end estates. George is currently the president and managing broker of Lyford Cay Properties Sotheby's International Realty and Damianos Sotheby's International Realty.
Guardian Business: What is the biggest challenge facing your business or sector? What measures need to be taken in The Bahamas to solve it?
George: I think it would be a big help to both the real estate and tourism sectors to have direct flights coming in from major cities in Europe. At the moment, we have British Airways direct from London, but no direct flights from continental Europe. Europeans would be more inclined to have vacation homes in The Bahamas if it were easier for them to get here. Right now, someone from Paris or Zurich would have to travel through London, New York or Miami and pass through customs and immigration there as well as when they land here. The bottom line is that people will always go more often to the places that are easiest to get to.
GB: How has your business or sector changed since the financial crisis?
George: Brokers and agents have had to become smarter and more realistic when pricing real estate. There are no more easy transactions; nobody is going to write a check for anything today unless they know they are getting a great deal.
GB: Briefly, can you describe a life experience that changed how you approach your work today?
George: The biggest change was in 2005 when we bought the Sotheby's International Realty franchise for The Bahamas. We have improved our marketing, company production and our level of service. The Sotheby's brand and network of company offices are second to none. The brand has history behind it, dynamic Internet marketing and an excellent referral system. The Sotheby's network has enabled us to expose our Bahamian property listings to an unparalleled number of wealthy buyers around the globe.
GB: What are you currently reading?
George: The Descendants. I also enjoy John Grisham novels. I already have his new release waiting on my iPad.
GB: Has the high cost of energy hurt your business? What solutions have you initiated or considered to combat it?
George: The electricity cost has increased over the years but not enough for us to take drastic measures and consider solar or alternative energy. We have nine offices and we are coping with BEC. We have invested in standby diesel generators for most of our offices because the power supply is unreliable in the Family Islands.
GB: What makes a great boss? What makes a bad boss?
George: A great boss leads by example and builds a culture of teamwork. A bad boss is short-sighted and selfish.
GB: If you could change one thing concerning business in The Bahamas, what would it be?
George: Response time. We are living in an age of the Internet and everyone expects instant information and instant response. A lot of people in real estate and its related industries don't understand this. Therefore, we do not meet the expectations of the client.
One has to be aggressive, smart and savvy to succeed in today's business world. Those who are complacent and flat-footed will surely be swept away.
GB: What keeps you grounded? Do you have any major interests other than work?
George: My favorite pastime is sailing. I like to race Sunfish and Laser boats and try to get out on the water as often as possible.
GB: What should young businesses keep in mind in this current economic climate to survive?
George: Stay focused. Make a sensible and realistic business plan and stick to it. Success takes time and dedication. If it were easy, everybody would be Bill Gates.
GB: How would you describe or classify the ease of doing business in The Bahamas?
George: The major advantage of doing business in The Bahamas is that it is a small market. This allows you to build a reputation faster. If you are diligent, honest and knowledgeable, people will take notice and remember you. It is also easier to cultivate long-term relationships in a small place like The Bahamas.