Ponzi donations and political parties
JLP leader Andrew Holness was grilled on TV on Wednesday night concerning the request from the Turks and Caicos Islands authorities that political parties and others should return financial donations made to them by former Olint boss, David Smith. The authorities feel that these parties have a legal obligation to return the money.
Interestingly enough, I was able to dig up an old Reuters report, part of which goes like this: "National fundraising committees for the Democratic and Republican parties, President Barack Obama and other major politicians have declined to return campaign donations from R Allen Stanford, now on trial for allegedly masterminding a $7-billion Ponzi scheme." The report goes on to say that these campaign committees have appealed a federal judge's order to return the money to a higher court which has not yet decided on the matter.
I am sure Mr Holness understands that if there is seeming reluctance, it is because there is scant legal precedence when it comes to taking back such campaign contributions. I suspect that is because it is often difficult to prove in court that these committees took money that was clearly illicit and therefore must return it to the victims of an alleged fraud.
Was there a clear trail? I ask myself. I can recall reputable members of my church getting involved with Olint which we were all told was in the foreign exchange trading business. Had I two cents to rub together, I would have jumped in, head first. In 2002, there was an accounting scam at WorldCom - a legitimate enterprise - but there was fraud. So wouldn't a donation from such a company cloud the source of campaign donations?
It appears to be generally settled law that if one of my friends stole a dozen patties and gave me six, even if I did not know the origin, the victim of the theft has a right to reclaim the merchandise and I would have no enforceable claim to it.
But what if I had promptly devoured those patties? What if it can be established that the Turks and Caicos authorities were negligent and did not act with reasonable promptitude to preserve these gifts from dissipation? Finally, did the timing of Mr Smith's alleged crimes predate or overlap the time of these donations and did the parties know this?
Money translates to real power only when one has access to politicians. This matter showcases the dangers Ponzi schemes pose not only to investors, but also to beneficiaries of Ponzi largesse, given as charitable contributions or political donations.