It is too common in the Cayman Islands and can be seen in the reflections from ultra-dark window tint on passing cars, in ramshackle buildings wedged into undersized under-kempt lots, in the gleaming metal of brand-new appliances acquired just before election time, and now, in Page One headlines on the FIFA scandal in newspapers across the globe.
Whether it’s securing a vehicular inspection sticker, an exemption to development regulations, approval for work permits, the support of a particular bloc of voters, or, allegedly, millions of dollars in bribes in relation to sporting events — lurking behind the scenes are shadows of impropriety, influence and inscrutability.
Because such behavior is so commonplace, we tend to “normalize it,” refusing even to recognize it, or neglecting to see how aberrant it really is. In the 1990s, U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called this “defining deviancy down.” In Cayman, we’re more likely to attribute such behavior to “cultural differences.”
Perhaps that is one reason that our leaders have been so reticent to speak out on sensational allegations of corruption within world and regional football. To adapt the infamous observation of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart (who was writing about a 1964 case involving the determination of what constitutes hardcore pornography), perhaps, when it comes to identifying corruption, people in Cayman truly “don’t know it when they see it” — because they have been culturally steeped in it.
We often boast that Cayman is the world’s fifth-largest financial center, in the elite class of offshore jurisdictions alongside London, New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo, and with clients dispersed across the Earth.
The industry is so global, and its lifeblood (capital) so fluid, that even a whiff of corruption should not be tolerated or condoned. An exodus of funds away from Cayman could happen in the blink of an electronic eye, bringing about dire economic consequences that would reverberate through the generations. From George Town to ghost town. It could happen.
Apart from reasons of common decency and basic morality, that is why we must not continue to wink at what seem like the most minor infractions of traffic laws, such as cars that are obviously not “roadworthy” nevertheless sporting brand-new inspection stickers. That is why our planning boards, along with our myriad of other administrative law bodies, including liquor licensing and immigration, must be held to the highest standards of accountability, rationality and transparency. That’s why, as MLA Winston Connolly has righteously and rightfully pointed out, it should be unacceptable for a politician to buy off constituents with “shut-up money.”
That’s why Cayman’s officials should be calling vociferously for a complete investigation into the allegations, filed in U.S. district court, that Caymanian Jeffrey Webb (amongst others) used his leadership position within regional football as a platform for the perpetration of acts of corruption and money laundering.
Further, our officials should be locally executing exhaustive inquiries with the goal of identifying any and all illicit activities that may have occurred in relation to the FIFA scandal, involving any Cayman residents or banking institutions — and then exonerating or prosecuting accordingly.
When it comes to Cayman’s continuing status as a financial services center of the first class, not even the appearance of corruption can be tolerated. In this arena, on the world stage, there can be no room for “cultural differences.”