BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – IT is being bandied that an extortion ring exists within a certain community in Basseterre and the targeted victims are business owners.
The big question being asked is: “How true is the belief that this form of criminal activity is being perpetrated in the twin-island Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis?
In search of an answer, SKNVibes contacted the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ian Queeley, who stated that the law enforcement body had heard rumours of the practise of extortion in St. Kitts but there was no evidence to confirm its existence.
He reminded that the Mission Statement of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force (RSCNPF) is to enhance the safety and protect the trust of the citizens of the Federation by enforcing the law with integrity and professionalism.
The Commissioner pointed out that in keeping with its mandate, the RSCNPF investigates all reported criminal activities and that the rumour of extortion was not exempted, but “so far, no evidence has led to its existence and no one had lodged any report at any police station concerning that”.
However, while no such report was made to the police, many people are convinced that it exists.
Some of them had turned to social media to express their views on it and even suggested that a recent homicide was as a result of extortion.
Only recently a young politician and Attorney-at-Law, Ambassador Jonel Powell, had commented on the murders of young people in the Federation and suggested that the most recent might have been a victim of extortion.
“As anybody is, especially any young person now starting off their own business, they are going to be vulnerable. They are going to be targets of what now seems to be extortionists in our society and people looking to do wrong. I am concerned in that respect. As a young business person, I worked to try to get in government and political sides. I own several businesses and what if somebody should come to me one day and say, ‘If you don’t pay money we are going to break into your office every day.’”
Following the publication of the young politician’s comment, five individuals had contacted this media house and provided the names of a few business entities whose owners have to pay extortionists a monthly fee or their business establishments would be broken into on a regular basis.
When asked if they had informed the police, the spokesperson of the group said: “This is serious times and life is precious.”
On the advice of using Crime Stoppers at 1-800-8477(TIPS) or the SKN Crime Reporter App on their Smartphones, all members of the group showed signs of reluctance and referred to the spokesperson’s remarks.
Speaking with Dwyer Astaphan on the matter, he opined that it has been practised in the Federation for quite some time.
“I believe we been having that kind of activity in the place for some time in one way, shape, form or the other, both at the street level and in the jacket-and-tie circles of the society.”
The former Minister of National Security under the Labour Party Administration claimed that extortion usually takes place in an environment of predators and people who are either very cowardly or desperate.
He is of the view that extortion could happen once a person is in a decision-making position, adding that it could be in the most menial of decisions.
Proffering an explanation to his view, Astaphan said when an individual would have approached a decision maker, he or she might say: “So you want me to do you a favour? Okay, but you will have to give me something in return.”
He gave other examples, such as: “Give me something and I will do you a favour. I will promote you and I will protect you.”
“So it is not just at the street level, but, in my opinion, it’s been happening at the jacket-and-tie level as well,” he added.
What is extortion?
According to Dictionary.com, the British Dictionary defines extortion as “the act of securing money, favours, et cetera by intimidation or violence”.
Extortion, which is also called shakedown, outwrestling and exaction, can be defined as “a criminal offence of obtaining money, property or services from an institution or individual through coercion”.
Historically, according to Wendy Parker of the George and Wendy Show (November 2016), Captain Lucifer Von Ahab might have been the first recorded person to have practised extortion on the high seas during the days of piracy.
“Captain Lucifer terrorized the Southern seas during the heydays of piracy. His terrifying ‘Grocery Warehouse’ flag became fodder for nightmares of cargo ship captains far and wide. Scuttlebutt at every port whispered of horrors like being detained for days at a time, afloat at sea, waiting for Captain Lucifer to have an open rope to throw over the bow and commence his heinous pirating,” Parker is quoted as saying.
Based on the belief and assumption of those persons mentioned, this media house has decided to list a few tips on how one can be protected against extortion.
Like blackmail, once you agree to the requests of an extortionist on his or her first attempt to deprive you of your money, it will only make matters worse because further demands will be made to drain your cash.
Therefore, in order to protect yourself, the first step is to report the matter to the police. However, when contacting the police, you must be smart in dealing with the extortionist. Do not make the mistake of letting him or her know of your intention or they may go to extremes and do something harmful to you, which may even result in your demise.
Be prepared to appear in court on apprehension of the extortionist. But in order for successful prosecution, you must have concrete evidence to prove your case. Therefore, whenever approached by an extortionist, try your utmost to stealthily record when he or she is making demands. That is, if the encounter is face-to-face.
It may not be possible to record at the first encounter; therefore, it would be wise to suggest that you meet at the extortionist’s convenience to further discuss the demands. This will allow you to be better prepared.
If an extortionist approaches you within your business establishment, ensure that it is equipped with security systems such as CCTV cameras so as to have the evidence presented in court.
Always bear in mind that criminals are also intelligent. Some of them have impressive academic pedigrees, especially those engaged in organised crimes.