Outgoing Commissioner of Police Mr. Michael Matthews says he is standing by his comments on the need for unexplained wealth legislation in the BVI, however, he made it clear that not all wealthy locals and residents are criminals.
“All I said on that interview, and I still stand by the comments that there is legislation now in many jurisdictions around the world. The United States have it, UK, Australia has it, other modern jurisdictions, and that’s what we are aspiring to be, a modern jurisdiction and modern jurisdictions have modern laws. And, some of those laws are around asset recovery, some of them are about unexplained wealth,” he said on the Honestly Speaking Radio Programme on Tuesday, April 6.
His comments come from a previous interview on the same platform where his statements were considered controversial and did not paint the full picture, which took into consideration the hard-working people of the territory who amassed their wealth through legal means.
“When you look around, and you notice that somebody’s got three or four homes, two or three fast boats and a couple of nice cars but they haven’t got a job, you have to ask yourself a question: ‘where’s their income coming from?’ And that’s why modernising legislation is going to be important in the BVI because we need to get to a stage where we can hold people to account when they can’t explain their assets,” Commissioner Matthews said late last month.'
Fast forward to last evening, Commissioner Matthews said he believes the government is entitled to ask questions of that minority of person who have unexplained wealth and are not employed in any way, adding that “what we are seeing is very clear linkages with that small number of people to the illicit drugs trade, with money laundering and even with human trafficking.”
He said he is aware that the BVI was built on a strong economy with strong pillars in the financial and tourism industries.
“I felt I was joining a successful place where successful people existed and lived in harmony; black, white, whatever with each other. So when I started talking about the issues that I think face and challenge the BVIslanders, I am not talking about the BVIslander whose great grandfather, grandfather and father built this territory. I am not talking about the great legislators that came before and put the first platforms down, the first stones on the ground for independence and that drive to self-determination.”
He added, “I am not talking about the BVIslanders who worked all their lives to build from scratch, houses from the ground upwards and then renting that place out to afford to build the next one and so on and so forth and making a hard-living out of it and are now enjoying the benefits of their living. What I am talking about and it is a fact, and it’s not a pleasant fact that everyone wants to admit to because it includes some BVIslanders but not just BVIslanders, it is across the place. There are some people living in the BVI today who do have a significant amount of assets, and it is difficult to look at those people with the same lens and say, “oh yes you could see that their family built that empire up and their great grandfather and their grandfather built that up” it isn’t like that in certain cases.”
He further said that his view as a policeman for nearly 40 years has contributed to his mindset.
“My view is tainted by the fact that I see and know who these individuals are because we as a force our job is to look at potential criminality and when we identify people and when we see that they don’t have any employment, they don’t pay any taxes in the BVI, they are not actually doing anything day in day out and don’t seem to contribute to the people of the BVI, and yet they are building up houses, they are buying these boats, they are bringing them in the territory, they got these cars,” he reasoned.
Commissioner Matthews said he had no intention of his comments to be considered racist.
"I will remind people that I wasn’t picked because of the colour of my skin and I was picked, recruited, interviewed by local BVIslanders who formed the Police Service Commission at that time. So I got to believe that they saw something in me then that said this guy will fit into the community, will understand us, get to know us and be part of us, and that’s what I’ve tried to do, that’s what my family has tried to do,” the Commissioner stated.