News broke yesterday that Desmond Panton, a prominent Jamaican car dealer and general wheeler-dealer, was arrested for tax evasion . As the Gleaner reported:
The Jamaica Customs Department yesterday closed down the operations of Key Motors Limited and arrested its owner, Desmond Panton, for alleged customs duty evasion.
The move came after a Customs Department audit of Key Motors’ operations reportedly discovered that some 50 vehicles were illegally removed from the company’s warehouse and illegally sold to un-suspecting customers, denying the government $40 million in customs duty.
A statement issued by the Customs Department late yesterday stated that Panton was arrested for customs duty evasion and taking steps to defraud the government of duties and taxes, after a meeting with Customs officials earlier in the day.
So finally a big fish has been arrested for a white collar crime. Interestingly in the eighties Desmond Panton’s brother Donald, was also accused of tax evasion amounting to millions of dollars. According to a January 22, 1992 Gleaner article:
THE government, pursuing its case to recoup millions in taxes it claims car mogul Donald Panton owes Jamaica, will now have access to Mr. Panton’s seven USA bank accounts…
The Jamaican government is hoping to use the January 13 ruling by Judge Stanley Marcus, under the US/Jamaica Tax Information Treaty, to buttress its case that Mr. Panton was liable for millions of dollars In taxes between 1981 and 1986.
The case is seen in legal circles as a test of the agreement for information sharing.
Panton, with interest in transport, rent-a-car, agriculture and banking is one of Jamaica’s wealthiest men He is brother to Desmond Panton whose Executive Motors is the dealer for Mazda motorcars Although their interest are separate, the Pantons between them would at one time or the other have controlled up to 80 per cent of Jamaica’s car Import business. Donald Panton became embroiled in the tax dispute with the government which In 1987 claimed millions of dollars in tax liabilities for the years 1981 to 1986 against the business tycoon. After a series of proceedings In the Supreme Court in 1988 the case appeared to have ended In Mr. Panton s favour with a ruling that he did not owe the kinds of taxes which had been claimed by the Jamaican government.
I don’t know if Donald Panton was ever charged or the money recovered. Between the two brothers it would appear that Jamaicans have been defrauded of enormous sums of money over the years. In 1990 there was even a kass kass between Desmond Panton and Butch Stewart, then president of the PSOJ (Private Sector Association of Jamaica). According to the Gleaner Mr. Stewart had said that dealers involved in second-sale deals with motorcars, “should be put in jail”.
THE DAILY GLEANER, TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 1990 recounted another interesting case involving Desmond Panton:
‘Money pilot’ gets 2 years
THOMAS Vincent Lee. 39, Jamaican airplane pilot with American citizenship, was slapped with a two-year prison term on Friday when he appeared in a Fort Lauderdale court in Florida. Lee had pleaded guilty to knowingly and wilfully failing to declare US$598,319 to U.S. Customs when he landed a small plane at Commercial Executive Airport, Fort Lauderdale on November 7,1989. In his statement, Lee said he had flown the money from, Montego Bay on behalf of Kingston automobile dealer Desmond Panton and that the money was to pay for an'” aircraft being bought by Panton. Lee said that on November 5, he took a commercial flight to Kingston and the following day he got in touch with Mr. Desmond Panton whom he had known for three months. Lee said that Mr. Panton told him that if the deal was not closed by November 8, I989, he (Mr. Panton) would have to pay interest on the money owed. On Friday, Judge Vloch fined Lee U.S.S50, payable, immediately. The 24-month prison sentence was “deferred’ to a time and place to be determined by the US Bureau of prisons. He is now on bail, but should report to U.S Marshalls in Miami, not later than July 6, 1990 to serve his term. On release from prison Lee will be placed on three years probation with special conditions attached. The Gleaner understands that the Jamaican Government is displaying keen interest in the case with a view to recovering the confiscated money which is now in the hands of U.S. Customs. It is understood that the Director of Public Prosecutions is still trying to get Lee to come here to assist in local investigations. Lee is also wanted on a warrant here in connection with a shipment of automatic weapons found on the Sangster International Airport runway, Montego Bay in October 1980. A warrant was issued for his arrest in 1981 and although he has been on frequent visits to Jamaica, it had not been executed.
Blow wow! While low-budget people are arrested for a spliff the likes of Lee and the Pantons walked free, despite serious charges such as tax evasion and import of automatic weapons against them.
According to the Daily Gleaner, FEBRUARY 2, 1990:
NINE years after warrants were issued for the arrest of airplane pilot Vincent Thomas Lee and another man, in connection with a consignment of arms found on the runway of the Sangster International Airport, Montego Bay, the warrants have not been executed. Police sources confirmed that the warrants were issued in January 1981 following investigations of the find of 10 rifles equipped with silencers, 12,000 cartridges and 17 magazines and instruction booklets. They refused to disclose the name of the other man involved. The arms were found in a canvas bag on the eastern section of the runway, shortly after Lee landed a Cessna aircraft there on October 24,1980.
FASCINATING. I wonder who the other man was. The date on which this cache of weapons was found is also interesting, for barely a week later, on October 30, 1980, the historic Jamaican election when Michael Manley’s People’s National Party lost resoundingly to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) led by Edward Seaga took place. As the newspapers put it “the JLP whipped the PNP 51 seats to nine, the biggest margin of victory in elections since Jamaica gained Independence from Great Britain in 1962.”
Pure almshouse and shenanigans. I wonder if Desmond Panton being brought to book at this moment has anything to do with the caged bird in New York singing…will we ever know? Will we ever recover from all this?