Bahamas PM accused of ‘abuse of power’
NASSAU, Bahamas — Prime Minister Perry Christie’s admission that he intervened with a local bank in an effort to help the Bahamas government’s chief value-added tax (VAT) coordinator Ishmael Lightbourne save his home was “inappropriate” and an “abuse of power”, opposition leader Dr Hubert Minnis said on Monday.
Minnis said Christie’s actions likely left the bank in question in a difficult position where it felt it had no other choice than to give in to the prime minister’s wishes.
Christie made the revelation in the House of Assembly last Thursday as he defended Lightbourne from what he called “vicious attacks”.
“I called the managing director of the bank and asked the managing director, she was traveling, I said please call me. She called me. [I said] what can I do as prime minister to stop this man from being put out his house today?” Christie said.
FirstCaribbean International Bank had secured a court order to repossess Lightbourne’s Cable Beach home.
“I was ashamed, and all [of] The Bahamas should have been ashamed at the prime minister’s response,” Minnis said.
“That was totally inappropriate. When the prime minister said he called the bank, the bank manager to see what can be done, that can be interpreted, that’s abuse of power.
“It’s [a] totally inappropriate action that he [did] and it’s bordering really on you dictating to individuals what you want done.”
Minnis was a guest on the Guardian Radio show “Jeffrey” with Jeff Lloyd.
When asked by Lloyd if he would have made the tough decision to deal with Lightbourne, Minnis said, “That’s a no brainer.”
He added: “How could you have the messenger trying to sell a message when he is not adhering to what he is selling?
“That cannot work. Due diligence would have been done and I would have known the situation. That would not have happened.”
Last week, Christie blasted The Nassau Guardian’s revelation that Lightbourne has not paid real property taxes in more than 20 years.
Christie said Lightbourne did not pay his taxes due to “financial incapacity”.
The prime minister hired Lightbourne last year to help steer the implementation of VAT.
“These attacks have arisen as a result of the improper disclosure that he is in arrears on his real property taxes,” Christie said.
“While Mr Lightbourne should clearly pay his property taxes, and is under legal obligation to do so, it is obvious that the call for the government to dismiss Mr Lightbourne, is a clear attempt to discredit and shoot the messenger, because there are those special interests who do not like the VAT message he is delivering on behalf of the government.”
The Nassau Guardian recently reported that Lightbourne owes $110,083 in taxes on a commercial property he owns, through a company, at Mount Royal Avenue.
Lightbourne, who is also a director of Sandbourne Limited, has not paid taxes on the commercial property in Palmdale in over 20 years
The Guardian also revealed that Lightbourne, who has been lecturing Bahamians on the need to pay their taxes, has not paid property taxes on his West Bay Street home in at least a decade. He owes nearly $8,000 in real property taxes on his home.
Christie told the House that Lightbourne “is now making arrangements” with the Real Property Tax office to settle his liabilities “within a reasonable time”.