FNM Calls for Immediate Action against illegal Gambling

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Opposition Leader Calls on Government to find Courage and Obey the Law!

Hubert Minnis - Leader of the FNM

Nassau, Bahamas – The Free National Movement, together with right-thinking Bahamians, is outraged at the inordinate delay by the PLP government and the Commissioner of Police in enforcing the Law of The Bahamas, as a consequence of the recent Ruling by the Honourable Chief Justice, Sir Michael Barnett, in the “Paradise Gaming” Web-shop case. In that case the Conservatory Order, which prevented the Police from enforcing the Gambling Laws of The Bahamas, and which was originally granted by Senior Justice Jon Isaacs, was overturned by the Chief Justice. An Application by the Web-shop owners for a full Injunction, pending trial, was also refused.
In what I have been advised is a very strong and well supported Ruling, the Chief Justice specifically stated, in no uncertain terms, that:

“47.      In my judgment, even if this action were to raise issues as the validity of the Lotteries and Gaming Act, it would not be a proper exercise of my judicial discretion to restrain the police for enforcing the law whilst the validity of the challenged law is being tested. Laws are presumed to be valid and must be obeyed unless and until they have been adjudicated as being invalid. The police must be allowed to enforce the law unless and until the law has been declared to be invalid.”

“48.      I accept that if the constitutionality of the relevant provisions of the Act is challenged in any criminal proceedings in the Magistrates Court, those criminal proceedings may be stayed pending the determination of the constitutional issue in the Supreme Court. Be that as it may, it is no justification for not enforcing the law in the meantime.”

There is absolutely no excuse for the total absence of any meaningful action by the Police, and for the kind of lame explanations offered by Minister of National Security, Dr. Bernard Nottage, and the Commissioner of Police, Ellison Greenslade, in the newspapers last Thursday and Friday.

On the one hand Dr. Nottage is quoted in Thursday’s Tribune newspaper as saying that shutting down (illegal gambling in) web-shops was: “not my job”. Not his job? Well, Minister, as Minister for National Security, it is in fact your job to ensure that the Police have the resources and necessary support to enforce Bahamian Law. It is your job to ensure that the leadership of the Police Force has the necessary will and determination to enforce the Law! It is your job to see that the Police do enforce the Law. While the Minister cannot lawfully instruct the police on HOW to do their duty, it is his job to ensure that the police do, in fact, do their duty!

It is a gross dereliction of duty for the Minister of National Security to shrug his shoulders and “pass the buck” to some Lawyers in the office of the Attorney General’s Office. The Minister is presumed to know Bahamian Law, the police know Bahamian Criminal Law. In the face of the clear and un-ambiguous Ruling of the Honourable Chief Justice that: “The police must be allowed to enforce the law unless and until the law has been declared to be invalid,” this protracted inaction and lame excuse making by the Minister of National Security is totally unacceptable in a civilized society which is governed by the Rule of Law.

It is also a lame excuse for the Commissioner of Police to seek to explain what seems to be a state of inertia in the police as regards the enforcement of Bahamian Laws against illegal gambling operations by announcing that the Police Force had only now “launched an investigation”, as he did in Friday’s Tribune newspaper. This cannot be the same Police Commissioner who boldly assured the Bahamian People in the run-up to the failed Gambling Referendum that the Police were ready to enforce the Law. On the 7th January, 2013 the Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade assured the Bahamian People through a Press interview that: “I cannot tell a lie to the Bahamian People. For us as an organization, it is a real issue. I’ve been very, very patient for a long time…I’ve been far too tolerant”. The news Reporter then stated that the Commissioner of Police assured the news media, and the Bahamian People, that in the event that the Referendum was to fail, “a plan is already being developed.” (Nassau Guardian 8/1/13)

If that was so, how is it that only now the Police are beginning to “launch an investigation”? How could the Police have had any kind of realistic plan, which was “already being developed” in January, without apparently having previously done any “investigations” before the January news conference, and between then and now; since it is only “now” that a police investigation is being launched. Where, Mr. Commissioner, is “the Plan”? Where is the “Action Plan” that you announced in January?

This sad scenario is utterly unacceptable, and the Commissioner of Police must immediately correct for the Bahamian People the apparent inaction which seems to be a dereliction of duty.

It was no excuse, Mr. Commissioner for you to lecture Bahamians in January, saying how (and I quote) “we live in a society where a lot of things have been allowed to slip for a lot of years” and that (quote) “illegal gambling existed long before I was appointed Commissioner of Police”.

The Chief Justice has plainly stated that no one can prevent the Police from enforcing the Law, while the law is on the books and remains valid. It is now the job of Mr. Greenslade to do his best to enforce the Law; to stop making what sound like lame excuses, and to stop trying to anticipate the legal challenges which people who are breaking the law may try to raise. Let the lawyers do the job of lawyers while you, Mr. Commissioner, do the job for which we believe you to be fully qualified and capable, namely prevent crime, including “white collar and computerized gambling” crimes.

We urge a forthright and immediate course of action by the police to obtain Search Warrants; to close down all illegal Gambling and lottery operations, and to confiscate all Computer terminals, Servers and the ATM machines which are being used to facilitate illegal gambling, and illegal money transfers, whether that gambling takes place in the Web-shops themselves, or in private homes; so that the Law of the Bahamas, the sound and well-considered Ruling of the Chief Justice, and the administration of justice generally are not brought into disrepute by what appears to be lame excuses, and no action by the Police and the Minister of National Security.