Customs Officer Accused Of Terrorizing Investors
Customs officials have reassigned a senior officer who had been stationed at Ocean Cay, near Bimini after he clashed with an executive of the AES Corporation, which operates an aragonite mining operation there.
In a report to Customs Comptroller John Rolle, Sandy Stubbs, the officer involved in the recent incident, said he feared for his life due to the "aggressive attitude and action" of AES Project Director Aaron Samson.
But Mr. Samson, whose company is also seeking the government's permission to build a liquefied natural gas plant on the cay, has denied that he was out of order in dealing with the customs officer, who he claimed was "terrorizing" AES workers.
The Customs Comptroller said that his officers are investigating the incident to determine exactly what happened and who may have acted improperly.
The whole matter stemmed from another incident that happened weeks earlier.
AES officials reportedly believe that Mr. Stubbs, who was stationed on the cay on a rotational one-month basis, was a good friend of a Bahamian AES worker who had been suspended by his supervisor. It is believed that Mr. Stubbs held a grudge against company officials.
Following the suspension, Mr. Stubbs allegedly ordered that AES Operations Manager Bruce Fitzgerald and diesel mechanic, Johnny Stott, be deported even after Immigration authorities on Bimini assured him that the expatriates had the necessary documents for their employment in The Bahamas.
But Mr. Stubbs insists that he was following proper procedures.
He reportedly confined the men to their quarters for hours then redirected an AES charter plane back to the United States with the workers on board.
Mr. Samson flew to Ocean Cay the following day to deal with the matter, which was reported to Trade and Industry Minister Leslie Miller and made an informal complaint to the Customs Department.
In his report, Mr. Stubbs said that Mr. Samson asked him to meet him at the AES office so that he could call the Minister, who had reportedly asked Mr. Samson to get the customs officer on the phone.
But Mr. Stubbs said he wanted to first call Customs headquarters in Nassau to inform authorities about the situation.
"I spoke to Mr. Miller and relayed the incident to him," he wrote. "Mr. Miller agreed with me for following instructions and procedures. However, he did ask if I could be more lenient with them (AES). He then went on to tell me about the LNG project in details and the benefits of such a project."
Minister Miller recently told the Bahama Journal that AES is "very close" to getting approval for the LNG project and the government expects to bring in millions of dollars annually as a result of the investment.
Mr. Stubbs said Minister Miller also asked him to come and see him when he came to Nassau.
Minister Miller confirmed to the Journal that he did speak with Mr. Stubbs regarding the incident, but he suggested that Mr. Stubbs may have exaggerated it.
The Minister also said he asked the customs officer to treat the foreign investors "in a delicate manner and with respect".
"I stated to him that I was concerned that you are ill treating foreigners," Minister Miller said. "I spoke with him for less than a minute. I asked him to be careful how he deals with foreign investors."
He also confirmed that Mr. Stubbs had locked away the foreign workers.
But Mr. Stubbs, in his report, claimed to be the victim.
Mr. Stubbs said after being approached by Mr. Samson, "I asked him if he was threatening a government official. He then asked me what kind of official do I think I am? He told me again that I was on his Cay. His and Leslie Miller."
He continued, "As I walked to the Customs office, he continued to follow me shouting at me and using degrading remarks to refer to me."
Mr. Stubbs also said in his report that, "After the phone conversation [with Minister Miller] Mr. Samson in an angry and loud voice, asked me who do I think I am and how dare I embarrass his people! I told him I was only doing my job and following procedures. He then said he don't quite care about procedures...
"He told me that he was having a meeting with his staff at the cafeteria and that I dare not come around there if I know what's good for me. I continued to walk to my office in silence and then proceeded to write this report."
But Mr. Samson said, "I categorically deny that I threatened him. It was an unfortunate incident. I got involved so that an unruly official would stop terrorizing and threatening my employees."
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