WASHINGTON — Gorman Bannister, wearing a hood to protect his disguised identity and guarded by U.S. marshals, told a Senate panel today that his father regularly paid bribes to Bahamian Prime Minister Lynden Pindling.
Bannister, a Bahamian-American former drug dealer who testified under oath, told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that his father, Everette Bannister, was for several years "the influence peddler of the Bahamas, bar none."
The subcommittee plans to hold several hearings on U.S. relations with the Bahamas and other countries where top officials are accused of protecting drug traffickers.
Bannister, who was subpoenaed by the panel, testified that his father frequently paid bribes to Pindling, who came to power in the Bahamas in 1967 and with whom the elder Bannister had close personal ties. He said the bribes were to protect drug trafficking and other operations in the Bahamas.
"I do believe that the prime minister was a recipient of (money from) every major deal my father made," Bannister testified.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the subcommittee chairman, then asked Bannister if he was testifying that his father "was consistently paying bribes" to Pindling.
"All the time," Bannister responded. "It'd be nothing for him (Pindling) to come and get $5,000 from my father."
He said his father referred to Pindling as "the man" and once told his son that "if it was not for 'the man,' I would not be able to do the things that I do" in the Bahamas.
Pindling has been alleged for years to be on the take from drug traffickers, who use the Bahamas as a major transit point for an estimated 40% of the cocaine and an even larger percentage of the marijuana headed for the United States from drug-producing countries such as Colombia.
He has denied as "lies" allegations that he has taken bribes from drug smugglers.
Pindling recently dissolved parliament and scheduled an election for June 19, where he and his Progressive Labor Party are expected to face their stiffest challenge since coming to power two decades ago.