Antigua and Barbuda: Expropriation Derangement Syndrome

Aggression without consequences becomes acceptable behaviour.

When aggression is crowned by success it creates a heady and addictive euphoria.  The negative consequences, such as they are, are borne by the victims of such aggression, and the aggressors appear to be greater, stronger and much to be admired by the subdued and silent witnesses to their behaviour.   Some might describe it as the Stockholm Syndrome.

As with all euphoria, it is addictive.  As with all addictions, it becomes the go-to solution to all the addicts' problems.

The Government of Antigua & Barbuda is currently experiencing an addiction to expropriation.

The "taking of property" has been limited for some time to property ownership by its own citizens.  Only weak opposition was offered, due to the ignorance of the laws governing the Constitutional right of individuals to own private property and the cost of taking on the political machine which still controls all the facets of Antiguan life. 

This activity continues, with the current examples of the lands on Barbuda after the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and the current Booby Alley project.

However, barely a dozen years into its independence, the Government grew bolder and attacked foreign-owned property.

The Government's first international victim was the Half Moon Bay Resort, owned by foreign private investors of long-standing.  It has become a well-documented saga of malfeasance and abuse of power, with consequences still to be determined, because the dispossessed owners have taken their grievances to jurisdictions outside the Caribbean.

Assuming that the determination of compensation due by the Privy Council would be the end of this "compulsory acquisition" and that actual payment was not an enforceable consequence, the Government embarked on a series of subsequent "take overs" of foreign-owned properties.

The first "easy pickings" that followed were the various properties of convicted fraudster, R. Allen Stanford. 

These included the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank's de facto expropriation of Stanford's Bank of Antigua.

The Antigua and Barbuda Government, together with local and regional private institutions, reorganised it in the Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank ("ECAB").  The Government of Antigua & Barbuda retained an interest in the new Bank.

Some two years later, the Antigua and Barbuda Investment Bank ("ABIB") was brought down next.

The story of its collapse is well documented on various websites.  A condensed version of that process would state that the Government overborrowed from the Bank, delayed payments due, bringing the Bank's deposits below minimum required by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank that invited the Central Bank to exercise its regulatory responsibility and close down the Bank.

Subsequently, the Central Bank and the Antigua & Barbuda Government announced that they had succeeded in making proper arrangements to protect depositors in the failing ABIB by absorbing its operations and accounts into ECAB.  

The Government of Antigua & Barbuda's interest in ECAB was increased by this arrangement.

It appears the current proposed take-over is that of Scotiabank, which has been positioned to be sold to Republic Bank Limited (Republic Financial Holdings). 

Many details of this transaction are contained in the Mondaq article: De-Risking In Jeopardy.

A recent addition to that discussion is that, with the impasse in negotiations, Antigua & Barbuda's Prime Minister has returned to his drug of choice solution and is now threatening expropriation.

Indeed, since Gaston Browne has become Chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, the threat has become magnified and he is encouraging member countries to expropriate any and all branches located in their respective countries.

Clearly, this suggestion is as deranged as it is delusional as it would make all of the counties involved international pariahs to even signal any sympathy with such a radical proposal.

Unfortunately, consequences are the only known deterrents to addictions -- and that only if the addict is smart enough to stop before it is too late.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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