Audrey Marks's drugs temptation

Marks would fly to various countries to buy and sell

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 05, 2015

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MANAGING Director of Paymaster Jamaica Ambassador Audrey Marks thought about what she could do with money earned from trafficking in drugs, but opted against the illegal activity, having realised that she was not born and raised to indulge in such a thing.


Ambassador Marks, who served as Ambassador to the United States between 2008 and 2012, was relating a story to members of the graduating class of St Mary High School recently, which left the audience in awe.


A daughter of Dressikie, western St Mary, who attended the nearby Marymount High School before finishing high school at Immaculate Conception, Marks said that while she worked with the then national airline Air Jamaica, the temptation arose following a discussion with a relative.


She would fly to the United States, the United Kingdom, the Caribbean and Canada to buy and sell commodities to supplement her income.


This came closer to the end of the 10 years she spent at Air Jamaica, starting out as a filing clerk, then accounting clerk, and assistant to the vice president for marketing and Sales, and during that time completing bachelor's and master's degrees part-time.


"As my weekend business grew, I expanded in the USA, UK, the Caribbean and finally Canada. I started taking boxes of rum to Toronto. After a year I had built up a thriving business. It was hard work, however, lugging two to three suitcases of rum, sometimes with a substantial amount of breakage if they were not packed properly. The only saving grace was that although the Canadian customs could charge for every bottle, most of the time they allowed free entry. These were the late 80s to early 90s before 9/11 when travel and security measures were far less restrictive.


"Hence, after a while, I had become such a regular Friday evening visitor, I was mostly just waved through customs. On one such occasion, a dear relative was picking me up. He noted my quick exit through customs and seemed very interested in my methodology.


"After answering his many questions, he finally came to the point and told me I could make thousands of dollars without lugging all those boxes, if I would just take an occasional package of drugs from Jamaica. While being initially shocked at the suggestion, on hearing the amount of money I would earn for doing far less work, I listened," Ambassador Marks told the gathering at the St Mary High School auditorium in Highgate, Central St Mary.


What followed later for the woman who had set her sights on becoming President of Air Jamaica, was a decision that would change her life forever and set her conscience free.


"That night, I thought of what I could do with all that money, but I also started to think about what would happen if I got caught doing something that I knew was illegal.


"I could not sleep easily; it was a battle of the value system I was raised with and the desire to have easy riches. But as I thought about this opportunity, I felt a disconnect with the image of myself as the president of a company and someone who did illegal activities. And that was it; the decision became easy, my audacious plan of becoming President of Air Jamaica was far more important than quick money," she related.


"Years later, I was asked to serve my country as the Ambassador to the United States. In my initial briefing, I was told that a very detailed due diligence on my background will be done and asked if there is anything that could be found that I would wish to disclose from now. I did not have to give it a second thought, the answer was an easy 'no' because I had asked myself that question many years ago," she said.


She implored the graduating class to resist the temptation, like she did, to venture into drug trafficking or other illegal activities.


"Times are difficult and you may be approached, but getting involved in any form of illegality -- stealing, scamming, drug-running, gun-running to even the simplest form of wrong activity -- is contrary to giving yourself the opportunity to live out your most audacious self without fear or favour," Ambassador Marks said.


The Paymaster managing director told the Jamaica Observer on Friday that she wanted to warn the young minds that


"the group that is being targeted is youth between 15 and 29. They are the real victims and it comes down to a lack of opportunities."


"I was trying to share with them that it's not where you are coming from, but how important it is to make the right choices. You can start small, but you must have a goal and take the opportunities to achieve your goal, and not get sidetracked.


"I am also frightened by the number of girls who are involved in drugs. Some of them are able to recover, but some never do," Ambassador Marks told the Sunday Observer.


See text of Marks' speech to the graduating class of St Mary High School on pages 26 and 27.


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