JACKSONVILLE -- The son of an influential Bahamian businessman testified that his father accepted bribes from drug smugglers and made payments to Bahamian Prime Minister Lynden Pindling and Pindling's wife, Marguerite.
Gorman Bannister, a key government witness in the trial of reputed Colombian cocaine kingpin Carlos Lehder Rivas, said his father, Everette Bannister, a close associate of the prime minister, took payoffs from Lehder to protect his smuggling operation in the Bahamas.
Lehder, 38, is on trial on a 1981 indictment charging that he masterminded the smuggling of 3.3 tons of cocaine into the United States through the Bahamas in 1979 and 1980.
Bannister, 33, testified that when his father caught him stealing $20,000 from an account where drug smuggler payoffs were deposited, his father said, "The money belongs to the prime minister." Bannister also said that in 1980 $280,000 of the $320,000 in cash his father had in his Nassau office was given to Marguerite Pindling.
A 1985 royal commission of inquiry found drug corruption among members of Pindling's cabinet, but it cleared the prime minister of any wrongdoing. But several witnesses at Lehder's trial have accused Pindling of taking millions of dollars in payoffs from drug smugglers using the islands for the transshipment of drugs from South America to the United States. Pindling has consistently denied it.