• Island Luck co-founder: ‘Weight off my shoulders’
• ‘Very remorseful’ over ‘dumb’ human trafficking
• Past decade ‘imprisonment’ with bank cut-off
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Island Luck’s co-founder yesterday said “a weight has been taken off my shoulders” after a federal New York judge allowed him to walk free rather than impose a minor jail sentence.
Adrian Fox, now back in The Bahamas, told Tribune Business he felt “very bad” and “very remorseful” over the role he played in a human trafficking scheme some 13 years ago but said the outcome of Friday’s hearing in the southern New York federal court confirmed his “second chance” in life.
Revealing that he wanted to “clear my head” before focusing on possible business opportunities, he added that the immediate focus will be the philanthropic and charitable activities carried out through his Fox Foundation and other avenues.
Nevertheless, Mr Fox disclosed ambitions to enter the hotel business via a potential $100m investment at the former Cable Beach Manor site he has acquired next to Sandals Royal Bahamian on Cable Beach. While plans for the project are still being drawn up, he added that he was looking at a European-style boutique hotel that could employ up to 300 Bahamians.
And, with the 11-year US pursuit now ended, the Island Luck co-founder voiced optimism that commercial banks would be willing to work with him once again and allow him to open accounts, as he likened the last decade to “imprisonment” that stifled numerous commercial ventures he wanted to launch.
“It’s a second chance. I’m very grateful. It worked in my favour,” Mr Fox said of Friday’s hearing, where Judge Denise Cote sentenced him to “time served”, a $5,000 penalty and one year of supervised release after he formally pled guilty to “to aiding and abetting the grossly negligent operation of a vessel” in relation to a human trafficking scheme.
The US federal authorities had sought a term of up to six months’ imprisonment for Mr Fox, but Judge Cote decided against this on the basis that he withdrew from the scheme voluntarily before being caught and had since committed himself to charitable activity that had bettered many lives in The Bahamas.
The Island Luck co-founder, though, yesterday voiced his regret at becoming involved in human smuggling, describing it as “a dumb decision that should never have been made” and urging young Bahamians to “stay true to who you are” and not be lured down the same path he was.
“I feel like when you are young you do crazy things, dumb things that kind of hurt you for the rest of your life,” he told Tribune Business. “I’ve been suffering for the last ten to 11 years, and now feel like a weight has been taken off my shoulders....
“I feel very bad for what I did. I feel very remorseful for what I did. I told the judge that. I was very ignorant and very dumb. What I’ve learned is that sometimes you make mistakes in life but you cannot let them keep you down. You can always change. You don’t have to live the life and keep doing the things you do.”
Despite avoiding jail, Mr Fox said his personal and business life had suffered the consequences of having US federal charges hanging over him for more than a decade.
“For the last ten years it’s been like imprisonment,” he said. “Everybody looks at you differently. I can’t do business. I can’t do business with no bank. It handicapped me so much, and I wanted to do more.
“The banking industry, once they kick you out, you cannot move. I hope now that this is over, I hope they’ll open their place of business for me so I can have accounts and do business with me.”
Some observers, especially those opposed to web shop gaming, may disagree with Mr Fox’s assessment given that Island Luck’s profits soared since the time he ended his involvement with human trafficking, and he has still been able to engage in other profitable ventured at the same time.
Web shop gaming is a divisive issue in Bahamian society, with significant segments both for and against it, but there is little doubt that Mr Fox’s philanthropic and charitable activities have impacted hundreds of lives in depressed communities on New Providence or elsewhere.
Asked whether he now plans to pursue fresh business opportunities, Mr Fox replied: “I have to just relax a bit, clear my head..... I’m getting tired of business right now. I will put Adrianna [daughter] in charge of business. I need to clear my head. It’s been a long time. I feel very good and happy about the outcome. I never want to go through this again.”
Still, Mr Fox indicated that the pause may only be temporary. “I want to build a hotel on Cable Beach,” he told Tribune Business. “I have some property over there, and want to get some Bahamians employed.
“The plans are being drawn up now, so maybe in 12 months I will start and try to get some things going. We’re looking at investing $100m in the hotel and will have 300 Bahamians employed. We need to get more Bahamians involved in the hotel industry.”
In the meantime, Mr Fox said his “mission” will be to help The Bahamas become “a better place”, with a focus on keeping “young men on track”. Noting that many young Bahamian men lack young “father figures” and role models in their lives, he added: “We cannot put young men in prison any more, and treat them like animals.
“That’s no way to reform. We have to teach them how to better themselves, become better people in life and part of society.” Mr Fox confirmed that an expatriate UK neighbour in Ocean Club Estates, Nick Maughan, had spoken to him about bringing a UK charity the latter is involved with, BoxWise.UK, to The Bahamas to aid troubled youth.
BoxWise, according to its website, is a non-profit that focused on improving health and self-confidence among young persons in a disciplined environment that has boxing as a core activity designed to provide a structure for these efforts.
Mr Fox, meanwhile, said he was focused on cleaning up his home community of Kemp Road and other inner city areas in a bid to rid them of derelict cars and other waste. And he added that he has already spoken to the area’s MP, Wayne Munroe, about creating a community centre for Kemp Road where children without Internet access - due to power outages or other disadvantages - will be able to learn and do homework.
Tribune Business triggered a political firestorm two weeks ago when it revealed that the Prime Minister and two of his Cabinet ministers, just over a month before they were elected to office, had written character testimonies on Mr Fox’s behalf to Judge Cote to support his bid for a lighter sentence.
The opposition Free National Movement (FNM), fresh from losing the general election, immediately blasted Philip Davis’ support for Mr Fox as “astonishing and reprehensible”. However, Mr Fox yesterday reiterated his disappointment with the FNM’s position, adding that he has previously donated to all parties.
“I was kind of disappointed that the FNM took that stance when they know they’ve taken money from me as well, not only in this election but the last election,” he added. “I don’t roll with any party. I’m a nationalist. I want to sake this country grow for our sakes and everybody else’s. It’s time for us to stop thinking as PLPs and FNMs, and do what’s best for our country and children.”