The New Year street decorations were still in place when the prime minister discovered himself in the center of a controversy involving an alleged money launderer. By one newspaper account, an unidentified millionaire had purchased not only prime property in the north of the island, but also some of Saint Lucia’s more respected citizens. Reportedly the man was heard bragging to expatriate boozer buddies about his relationship with the home affairs minister Velon John, whom he alleged was helping him to secure certain crucial pieces of documentation he needed to establish himself legally on the island.
No surprise that the “millionaire Englishman” also claimed to be “a personal friend of Kenny Anthony.” Just in case there were among its readers some who might dismiss the quoted boast as boozy blathering, the paper offered the sobering news that when its most trusted reporter confronted them with his story, the recently elected prime minister and his legal affairs minister “remembered the foreign gentleman’s name but denied any connections with him!”
Another paper reported that the prime minister “vaguely” recalled being introduced by a prominent local businessman to the ostensible millionaire buyer of influence. It didn’t take long before I discovered the stories had originated from a single source; better to say a twin source: a moonlighting policeman and a disgruntled real estate agent, from whom the central figure in the money-laundering story—a Great Britain native named Shaun Murphy—had promised to purchase a $400,000 property, then abruptly changed his mind. Although the twosome had known Murphy and his wife for almost a year, it was only after their deal fell through that the real estate agent and his police friend squealed to the authorities— and the press.
Nevertheless, the police told me their own overseas investigations had uncovered nothing disturbing in Shaun Murphy’s background. As for the newspaper reports, their authors had seen no pressing need to offer Murphy’s side to readers.
The same businessman who had taken the millionaire businessman to meet Kenny Anthony introduced us in the hope I might clear the clouds of public suspicion that had started to gather around the super-clean new prime minister, thanks to the published stories. Murphy immediately volunteered to answer whatever questions I might have. He also agreed without hesitation to be a guest on my TV show Straight Up. He promised to supply evidentiary support for whatever he told me. And he did. Murphy said he had never been to the United States, confirmed he was a native Briton and volunteered that he was also a citizen of France with a French passport. He also revealed that his meeting with Kenny Anthony outside the prime minister’s office had lasted only a few minutes. The prime minister was on the occasion en-route to an urgent appointment, Murphy recalled. Also: “I told him about my plans to establish a luxury-housing project in Saint Lucia and the prime minister wished me well.”
As for the whistle-blowing real estate agent, Murphy said the local man’s cousin introduced them. Initially, they got on well. Murphy’s new friend, a not so well off relative of a wealthy and connected white Saint Lucian family, introduced him to “all the important people.” The VIP list included the former prime minister Sir John Compton, bank managers and other prominent business contacts. On his friend’s recommendation, Murphy hired as his business representative the island’s leading law firm. As for the real estate deal that went awry, Murphy told me he was set to pay the $750,000 his friend wanted for the particular piece of prime property in exclusive Rodney Bay when he received word that it could be purchased from another agent for $100,000 less.
It was shortly after completing the transaction with the second agent that Murphy started hearing “those crazy stories that I am a money launderer, that I had a drug-related record, that I recently transferred close to a million dollars from my Swiss bank account to pay for coke that I purchased in Saint Lucia for the European market.” He said he wasn’t surprised that his former friend the realtor had gone to the press. After their business deal failed to materialize, he and his police pal—for a time Murphy’s personal bodyguard—had often threatened to make Murphy’s stay in Saint Lucia “intolerable.” Already, his French wife had been subjected to “certain embarrassments.” What did surprise Murphy was that the newspapers had featured him in their outrageous stories without any corroborative evidence, without a phone call, let alone a comment.
Murphy’s appearance on Straight Up attracted much public attention. The opposition considered him a handy instrument by which to destroy the new prime minister’s “holier-than-thou” image, while concerned supporters of the government blamed him for polluting the atmosphere around their beloved squeaky-clean leader. After I had asked my own questions, callers from both sides took the opportunity to toss verbal Molotov cocktails at Murphy. In all instances, he casually provided detailed accounts of his finances and his business transactions in Saint Lucia. He presented before the TV cameras receipts, letters and other documents from the offices of his widely respected legal representatives that supported much of what he said. Before I wrapped up the particular episode of Straight Up, I underscored the fact that the local police had been unable to uncover anything disturbing about Murphy. Then I turned one more time to my guest.
“I want to thank you for being so cooperative,” I said. “You had little to gain from placing yourself at the mercy of my callers. But there’s one question I wish to repeat: Is there a police agency in the UK or in the United States that might be interested in your activities?”
“None whatsoever,” said Murphy.
“What about the FBI and Interpol?”
“There is no reason whatsoever that they would be interested in me. Not even for tax purposes.”
“Okay,” said I, “then let me thank you again for setting the record straight about your relationship with our prime minister. However, let me also warn you that should I discover anything different from what you said on this show I will expect you to return with an explanation.” Murphy smiled. “I’ve already invested heavily in Saint Lucia. Several construction workers are dependent on me. I’m not going anywhere.”
Famous last words, as it turned out. Shortly after the recalled TV appearance, I took a two-week vacation in California. On my return I could hardly believe what I read in the newspapers. For a start, there was the public announcement in the official Gazette that in my absence the authorities had declared Shaun Murphy persona non grata.
One newspaper reported: “A few days before immigration authorities carried out an expulsion order signed by the governor general, Murphy fled the state to an unknown location.” Another paper quoted police sources as saying they had good reason to believe Murphy returned to the UK: “Law enforcement officers said they were certain, following intensive investigation, Murphy was correctly identified as the money launderer who once operated in the Virgin Islands, setting up shell companies and convenient bank accounts for drug dealers.”
Then there was this TV-news item: “Following a newspaper report that described Murphy as bearing a striking resemblance to a Shaun Murphy who laundered money from the British Virgin Islands, investigations into the visitor’s background were stepped up.”
Still another newspaper attributed the following statement to the Police Commissioner Mr. Francis Nelson: “We now have conclusive proof from Interpol that Murphy was the character identified in the non-fiction book on money laundering and the individual who set up special accounts for drug-dealing clients. He was advised to leave the state by the British High Commissioner, who was kept abreast of the investigations into the Briton’s background.”
To say I was absolutely flabbergasted, not to say disappointed, by the prime minister’s role in the matter hardly suffices. Considering that I had put my professional reputation on the line in the best interests of his good name, I thought he might at least have given me some small hint of what he planned to do about Murphy, if only to spare me—in the aftermath of the police revelations—embarrassing public speculation about my personal relationship with the deported Murphy. In any event, there was never any proof that he was who the immigration authorities belatedly claimed he was. I had researched his background as meticulously as was then possible, assisted by well-placed contacts in the United States and the UK. The local banks had also checked him out thoroughly, as required by law, before doing business with him.
One particular bank manager had told me: “Obviously, I can’t give you all the details but you may rest assured nothing in our files can be taken as proof that Shaun Murphy is other than he claims. Trust me, he’s clean!”
Nearly a decade after Murphy reluctantly boarded a plane out of Saint Lucia, I spoke with the now retired police commissioner Nelson. He easily recalled their first meeting at a Christmastime police dinner: Murphy had arrived with two other men, one a local police officer, the other a taxi operator. The last mentioned introduced Murphy to the police chief then quietly added that Murphy was “a close friend of the prime minister.” Also, that he was by reputation a money launderer. It never occurred to Nelson to inquire why a police officer had accompanied an uninvited criminal to their annual dinner!
The next day the police chief ordered an investigation of Shaun Murphy. His Special Branch department quickly reported what they learned “from law-enforcement sources in Ireland,” information that coincided not only with what Nelson had previously received from a whispering taxi driver but also with what had appeared without any corroboration nearly two months earlier in at least two local newspapers, and was by now common knowledge.
According to Business Week’s review of what Nelson had referred to as “a non-fiction book on money-laundering,” Jeffrey Robinson’s The Laundrymen “is an indictment of governments and banks that are unwilling to deal decisively with an industry that handles two hundred to five hundred billion a year.”
First published in 1996 by Simon & Shuster, The Laundrymen devotes just two pages to a story featuring “a young Irish accountant named Shaun Murphy, a gentle man with a soft accent.” The book does not say when Murphy first arrived in the British Virgin Islands, only that when he realized that “paradise offered untold possibilities for a struggling laundryman, he opened a small practice there.” Before long he was “forming companies for his clients in the BVI, using a company to open an account at a UK bank on the Isle of Man and depositing cash there. He’d then form a second company, open an account for it at a Swiss bank in Panama, and wire transfer the money out of the Isle of Man. Next would come a third company, with an account at a UK bank back in the BVI. From there, he could easily wire money on to his client anywhere in the world.”
Among Murphy’s clients were Ben Kramer and his father Jack, high-profile powerboat builders in North Miami. Ben Kramer was also a drug dealer. Murphy placed at their money-laundering service several of his shell companies registered in Tortola. When they got mixed up in the investigation of the daylight murder of Don Aranow, the man who built the famous Cigarette and Blue Thunder powerboats, it was the beginning of the end of the story for the Kramers. As for the Irishman Shaun Murphy, his walls came tumbling down because of his involvement in the 1983 Brinks-Mat robbery—the largest gold heist in British history. When Scotland Yard stumbled onto him, he sang. The Brits later handed him over to their American counterparts.
Robinson reveals that Murphy not only told the Drug Enforcement Agency everything he knew about Ben and Jack Kramer, but he also helped them get “seventy separate indictments against other drug dealers and money launderers.” The DEA came to like Murphy so much they spent three years debriefing him. For his help, “they paid him $200,000, gave him a brand-new identity, and sent him off to live somewhere in the Mediterranean.” So ended the story of Jeffrey Robinson’s Irishman Shaun Murphy.
Now, consider this about the United States Marshalls Service: “The Witness Security Program was authorized by the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 and amended by the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984. Since its inception, more than 7,500 witnesses and over 9,500 family members have entered the program and have been protected, relocated and given new identities by the Marshalls Service.”
The program is officially considered “a unique and valuable tool” in the government’s war against major criminal conspirators and organized crime. Final determination that a witness qualifies for Witness Security protection is made by the attorney general, based on recommendations of U.S. attorneys assigned to major federal cases throughout the nation.
“Witnesses and their families typically get new identities with authentic documentation. Housing, medical care, job training and employment can also be provided.”
Finally, there is this: “No Program participant who follows security guidelines has ever been harmed while under the active protection of the Marshalls Service.”
If, as the self-convinced Saint Lucia police and the island’s media sleuths believed, Jeffrey Robinson’s Murphy and the Murphy declared persona non grata by Kenny Anthony’s government were one and the same, and if law-enforcement sources in Ireland confirmed their suspicions, then what does that say for the witness protection program in the United States? Why would Robinson’s Murphy come to Saint Lucia under his crime-stained name and not the crime-free identity supported by “authentic documentation” courtesy the United States Marshalls Service?
Why would Robinson’s Murphy go out of his way in Saint Lucia to attract to himself attention from every quarter, including the police? Why expose his family to the fallout from his controversial TV appearances and his interviews with the STAR newspaper?
Why did he carry travel documents in the name of Shaun Murphy, instead of the DEA-provided passport and other related papers that rendered him absolutely clean? Why attempt to set up business in Saint Lucia under a name that could easily be traced to trouble?
It is unlikely the Irish authorities, with their own witness protection program to consider, would have disclosed the true identity of someone in the U.S. Marshalls security program. The possible repercussions are mind-boggling. In any event, how interesting to discover that law-enforcement in Saint Lucia never confronted Shaun Murphy with the incriminating data allegedly released to them by a government agency in Ireland, information that the earlier-mentioned real estate agent and his disturbingly resourceful police friend had already disseminated among the island’s more accommodating newspaper reporters!
It must also be asked: Was there a police conspiracy to nail Shaun Murphy after he reneged on an agreement to purchase property in Saint Lucia from a part-time real estate agent and his moonlighting cop partner—consequently denying them a hefty chunk of commission change?
It turns out that at the request of the island’s prime minister, the British Government Representative in Saint Lucia had gently moral-suaded Murphy to get out of Dodge and spare himself and the local expatriate community possible embarrassment. What reason did the prime minister have for such preferential treatment of a man he believed to be a convicted money launderer and drug dealer? Why did the Kenny Anthony government wait until Shaun Murphy was out of the way and in no position to defend himself before they declared him a prohibited immigrant—contrary to promises made to the BGR?
By reliable account, Shaun Murphy never returned to the UK. He settled in Saint Vincent, just twenty-four miles from the luxury-housing project he started at exclusive Cap Estate and was forced to abandon amidst circumstances shrouded by clouds as impenetrable as Derek Walcott’s “fog that erases the sins of history!”
And now there is this question: Why has the Labour Party propaganda machine resurrected Murphy, with its recent public announcement that he and UWP leader Allen Chastanet had hooked up in Monaco, ‘where the money is,’ according to information passed on by Ernest Hilaire during a recent televised interview by Choice TV’s Timothy Poleon?
Editor’s Note: Save for the last paragraph, the preceding appears as a chapter in Rick Wayne’s latest book Lapses & Infelicities—available at STAR Publishing or from Amazon.com