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Top police officer fighting corruption

Fighting corruption: police officer Nicholas Pedro issued warning (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

One of the island’s top police officers has said that kickbacks and bribery appear to be a problem in Bermuda.

Nicholas Pedro, of the Organised and Economic Crime Department, said reports in recent years suggested corruption was more prevalent than had traditionally been the case, but was keen to emphasise that it is not as widespread as in many other countries.

The Commission of Inquiry report released in March outlined “numerous violations” of official financial rules between 2009-2012, some of which were “serious and persistent”, and Detective Chief Inspector Pedro said: “By no means have those matters been finalised.”

The four-strong commission looked into allegations of misuse of public funds between 2009-2012 under a Progressive Labour Party government.

The panel also examined the One Bermuda Alliance government’s public/private partnership deal to build the new airport.

The report identified seven Bermuda Government business dealings in which there was evidence of “possible criminal activity”.

The Bribery Act 2016 became law last month and Mr Pedro said the new legislation would be “extremely impactful on a wide cross-section of the community”.

He said: “Traditionally in Bermuda, corruption or bribery was limited only to public officials.

“This Act makes it an offence for anyone to bribe anyone, or to receive a bribe, or to request one.”

Mr Pedro said bribes could include gifts, donations, discounts and favouritism in employment.

The new law also creates an offence for public officials who fail to report bribery and corruption.

In addition, it covers acts committed in Bermuda and overseas, although it does not cover offences that may have been committed before it came into force.

Failure to prevent bribery is also now a crime. Mr Pedro explained: “This basically creates a requirement to make sure that everybody is trained and aware about the legislation.

“Commercial organisations must take steps to prevent it, which means training and at least making your staff aware of the provisions of the Act so that there can be no suggestion that they weren’t aware.”

Mr Pedro said the previous legislation contained provisions to combat corruption but they were not as “robust” as the measures in the new law.

He added: “It is very powerful.”

Anyone found guilty of an offence on summary conviction under the Bribery Act could face a fine of up to $500,000, ten years in jail, or both.

An unlimited fine, a 15-year prison term, or both can be imposed on conviction on indictment.

Mr Pedro said more than 40 criminal investigations, involving money laundering, serious fraud and corruption are under way. He added the investigations involved individuals and businesses.

An eight-strong special squad, led by an inspector, has been set up to tackle the allegations.

Mr Pedro declined to comment on whether any government officials were the subject of investigations or if allegations of corruption in plans to introduce gambling to Bermuda were being probed.

Mr Pedro said priority will be given to alleged offences that could affect public confidence in the island’s legal system.

He explained: “If a report is something that we really think is in the public interest, and if the criminal justice system collectively is going to look bad then we give that a very high priority.

“We’re looking at things that present a jurisdictional risk to Bermuda.”

Mr Pedro said the new law was a “change in mindset for the island”.

He added: “This piece of legislation is potentially quite impactful and I think it may cause some people in the community to examine how they conduct themselves going forward.

“With the offences that are created, there is the very real potential for us to have a greater caseload because of the reporting requirement for public officials.”

Mr Pedro, a 25-year veteran of the police service, has worked in the Serious Crimes Unit investigating murders and gang-related crime.

He also helped introduce public access to information rules in the Bermuda Police Service.

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