An Immigrant’s Tale

Outside of St Lucia I have had little to do with lawyers, which is a good thing. Back in Sweden, where I lived for almost 30 years, things are so well organized – boring even, some might say – that the need for lawyers to settle disputes seldom arises. Yes, I did have a couple of disputes, but we sat down with the judge and discussed the matter in chambers and there was never a need to go to court.

Even the extremely profitable humdrum of “lawyering”, the processing of documents, contracts, bills of sale – you know, the stuff they charge an arm and a leg for – is usually done “in house” by banks as part of the service, which you probably pay for but doesn’t seem as expensive.

Old Beatty, whom I mentioned in a previous a-musing, looked after my house on Cap. I liked him even though he was ripping me off outrageously – but in a charming fashion, which is a bit like some of the lawyers I have met here. Anyway, Beatty, who is long dead, had a “wife” who had two incredibly beautiful daughters. Beatty himself had two sons. One day, I decided to help Beatty’s “family” that had been living on a plot of land they did not own at Cap Estate, and there was a risk that they would be thrown off the land because Cap was in all sorts of financial trouble and needed to sell off land a.s.a.p.

In order to close the deal quickly, and to avoid the delay of alien’s land-holding licenses, it was decided that the land should be bought in Beatty’s name and that when the time came he would “donate” it back to me through a Deed of Donation, which would attract no taxes.  It was all done legally by a young man in an extremely reputable legal firm – as respected as it gets, so I felt quite secure.

Anyway, life went on. People thought I was a fool to trust the family; they will never give it back, I was told. Tragedy struck. The “wife” left with her girls, and eventually moved to Canada. We helped one of the girls through university where she did well. The younger son accidentally shot himself sitting playing with his father’s gun. Beatty got ill and the doctor insisted he would die from kidney failure within weeks. I declined to pay for expensive treatment to lengthen his life; what was the point? He moved into the country with relatives and survived a good few years. I suppose doctors, however good they are, sometimes get it wrong. This time, it appears, bush medicine worked.

The remaining son moved to England and got married – to a lawyer! The younger daughter also went to Canada. Her mother was semi-legal, well, to be honest, illegally in Canada. She got a job looking after some kids from St Vincent – I am not quite sure how the kids fitted into the family; they might have been adopted; they might have been the wife’s from before her marriage – but anyhow, my friend went to the immigration authorities and put her case for residence and eventual citizenship: The children spoke Creole. The father did not. It was essential for the wellbeing of the children that they did not lose contact with their roots. Therefore they needed a “nanny” who could speak to them in their own language. She was awarded permanent residency.

Now you and I know that in SVG they do not speak our Creole. In addition, neither did the lady we are speaking of; she was born in Guyana and had come to St Lucia in the traditional way before meeting up with Beatty. The immigration authorities swallowed her tale hook, line and sinker.

But back to the house and the Deed of Donation. The wife and kids honored the agreement after the father died. All four of the heirs – wife (I suppose she really must have been married to Beatty), her two daughters and the remaining son contacted me and asked how they could “give” me the house. I got in touch with the young lawyer who had drawn up the original documents, but he had moved on to even more lucrative pastures in the financial world. He referred me to the lawyer lady who had been his boss. She printed out four copies of the standard Deeds of Donation, changing the name each time for each of the donors (click, click, click, click) and charged me four fees of about 7,000 dollars each (28,000 in all). To top it all, the tax authorities did not recognize the tax-free status of the Donation and I had to pay tax on the transfers. The lady lawyer absolved herself of all responsibility. Click, click, click, click – it beats working for a living!

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