The Politics of White-Collar Crime and Corruption in Trinidad and Tobago: Is It Convenient Political Mechanism For Flourshing State Enterprises


All of the daily media had a field day with the re­cent announcement of the arrests of former Attorney General, Anand Ramlogan and recently resigned UNC Sena­tor, Gerard Ramdeen, on alle­gations (relative to white collar criminality) of conspiracy to de­fraud the Government of Trini­dad and Tobago.

This revelation comes at a time when this twin-island republic is absolutely tired of the daily menu and diet of human suffering and of brutal, fiendish destruction of hu­man life.

Every day testifies to the increase of insanity, murder, and suicide. Who can doubt that satanic agen­cies are at work among men with increasing activity to distract and corrupt the mind, and defile and destroy the body? Have not greed and ambition and love of pleasure as strong a hold on men’s hearts?

State of Affairs

Truly, citizens of Trinidad and Tobago are living in the midst of an “epidemic of crime,” at which thoughtful, God-fearing men ev­erywhere stand aghast.

The corruption that prevails, it is beyond the power of the human pen to describe. Every day brings fresh revelations of political strife, bribery, and fraud. Every day brings its heart-sickening record of violence and lawlessness, of in­difference to one another.
Where do the solutions lie? Is it in human flesh? Is it in institutions that are currently failing the coun­try? Is something wrong with the oath taken when assuming politi­cal office? Has public trust taken a nose dive and fallen at an alarm­ing low level? Is there a history of bribery and corruption by political administrations since the country attained independence?

Can the two main political parties claim innocence and be exempted from corruption when in office? Sadly, the truth is that white-collar criminality, bribery, corruption and money laundering have grown progressively worse under these administrations and in more subtle and sophisticated ways.

As a political party, and one that held the reins of governance for more than forty years, the Peo­ple’s National Movement (PNM) can never hold itself out as a stel­lar example on transparency, ac­countability and integrity or as a paragon of virtue.

Rather in its machinery and sinews of operation, working with mysterious secrecy and con­summate craft, a compendium of national disgrace, shame, humili­ation and embarrassment eventu­ally emerge in national inquiries and probes and commissions like the Gene Miles fiasco and the Gas Station affair, the Johnny O Hol­laran massive money laundering inferno, Sam Wallace the Caroni Race Track scandal, and too many others to mention.

Throughout their tenure of of­fice, the PNM has left an undoubt­ed legacy of corruption scandals, whilst the money and the politi­cians run freely. That is the nature of the beast of politics. As former Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday stated, “politics has a morality of its own”, or better yet, its own ten commandments predicated on the adulation of power, position, and worship of the Almighty dollar. The carnal nature of man is also governed by the lusts of the eyes, pride of life and the lusts of the flesh. Who can deny that fact?

Looking at White Collar Crimes

But what is white collar crime? Internationally renowned Sociolo­gist Edwin Sutherland reportedly coined the phrase “white-collar crime” in 1939 to describe frauds committed by business and gov­ernment professionals.

These crimes are characterized by deceit, concealment, or viola­tion of trust for financial gain in­cluding obtaining or avoiding the loss of money, property, or ser­vices or to secure a personal or business advantage. These are not victimless crimes.
In his practicum, White Collar Crime and Everyday Corruption: From the Colonial to the Behav­ioural, Dr Dylan Kerrigan (Univer­sity of the West Indies) said, “Con­versations about corruption, both as white-collar crime and more mundane forms like using personal networks of influence to make bu­reaucracy more efficient or access jobs and more, are familiar topics.

In Trinidad there are many re­cent and older examples of mas­sive forms of state corruption that distress the populace. These in­clude in recent times the $1 billion Piarco Airport enquiry in the 90s, the Section 34 fiasco in 2012, the $24 billion treasury scandal and collapse of Colonial Life Insur­ance Company (CLICO) in 2009, the $34 million contract for no work given out in 2014 by a for­mer sports minister and a former prime minister found guilty of infringing the Integrity of Public Life Act in 2002.”
Countries in the Caribbean do not generally have legislative provision for whistle-blowers’ protection. There are two key ob­stacles to the successful prosecu­tion of white-collar crime in the Caribbean:

  1. finding a jury to handle com­plicated financial crime cases; and
  2. the absence of whistle-blow­ers to offer evidence in court of the alleged crimes.
    In Trinidad and Tobago cor­ruption has many faces. From the everyday ‘bobol’ of getting into a Carnival band or making bureau­cracy more efficient to more cor­porate forms
    Another way corruption is spo­ken of in Trinidad and Tobago is as “bobol.” In fieldwork bobol has been described and defined to me as “entrepreneurial graft,” “eat ah food,” and “political corruption.” Bobol is spoken of in radio chat shows, in everyday situations, by politicians, as the theme for Carni­val bands, and on the news.
    Is it a Political Master Stroke to Convince the Population or Seeking Political Redemption?
    Clearly, many political observ­ers and analysts are looking at the timing of this corruption allega­tions as well as the mediocre and dismal and bleak governmental performance over the past ap­proximately four years. Bearing in mind that this year and 2020, there are two elections to be held, and no doubt, the population needs to be aroused and convicted. But by whom? Does the population really care anymore?
    Perhaps the PNM may be think­ing that the public will come out and support them, just like the PP in the dying days of the last Gen­eral Election.
    So many changes are needed in this country, especially constitu­tional reform, but the politicians are only playing mind and rhe­torical games with the population. While politicians pontificate, the truth is white-collar crimes and its offspring, money laundering are here to stay.
    Their roots are deep, firmly em­bedded in and marinated in our society’s institutions and have a functional relationship with the proponents with the entrepreneurs of transnational organized crimes. White-collar functionaries have a permanent place in the hearts of desperate and deceptive human beings who relish power, position and profits.
    Nothing can change that fact, unless men have a change of heart from the carnal to the spiritual. Which political administration did not benefit from the largesse of white-collar operations?

1 thought on “The Politics of White-Collar Crime and Corruption in Trinidad and Tobago: Is It Convenient Political Mechanism For Flourshing State Enterprises

  1. Leonard Bernstein says:

    All this will continue until a cultural shift in Trinidad and Tobago from a “top down” command system to a “bottom up” command system. For an explanation and more on this please see my article entitled “Trinidad Suffers From The Quadruple Whammy” in the Trinidad Express, published 2-3 years ago.

    Citizens here have to learn to take control of the political process and learn to use the power of their voices. Until it changes, “Plus la change, plus the meme chose”.

    Leonard Bernstein


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