|Norman Benjamin Saunders. Sr.
Former Chief Minister of Turks and Caicos Islands
Norman Benjamin Saunders (born 1943) is a former politician from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He served as the island territory's Chief Minister until March 1985, when he was arrested in Miami. In July 1985 he was sentenced to eight years in prison on conspiracy charges related to drug smuggling.
Early life and education
Born in 1943, Norman Benjamin Saunders attended the the South Caicos Primary School; and later (1957-1960) the Turks & Caicos High School (now the H. J. Robinson High School), graduating at the top of the class in 1960. He was employed by Turks Island Salt Company as an office clerk from 1961 to 1964 during which time he took correspondence courses in Bookkeeping and Accounting.
From 1964 to 1974 Saunders was employed by The Caicos Company as Accountant, rising to the post of Assistant Managing Director. During that time he took accounting courses with the Rapid Results College, preparing for the ACCA professional exams. his greater involvement in politics and business forced him to discontinue his accounting career.
Saunders was first elected to the Legislature for South Caicos in 1967 and continued to serve until 1985. He served as Chief Minister of the Turks and Caicos from November 1980 to 28 March 1985 as political leader of the Progressive National Party (PNP).
Saunders was arrested in March 1985 together with Commerce and Development Minister Stafford Missick. Saunders was alleged by the US Drug Enforcement Administration to have accepted $30,000 from undercover agents to ensure safe passage of drugs by permitting safe stopover refuelling of drug flights from Colombia to the United States. Video evidence showed Saunders accepting $20,000 from an agent. Saunders was convicted in July 1985 of conspiracy, though he was acquitted of the charge of conspiring to import drugs into the United States (which Missick was also convicted of). He was sentenced to eight years in prison and fined $50,000.
In January 1995, Saunders was elected to the Parliament by just six votes. His former party, the Progressive National Party, had disowned him, forcing him to run as an independent.
Saunders is married and has four adult children.
He is a Methodist Local Preacher. He is also an avid sportsman and outdoors man. He is passionate about cricket. and an accomplished spin bowler. He was a member of the TCI Cricket Team that toured the Bahamas in 1960 and 1971, and captured the bowing prize on both occasions. Saunders also plays good tennis and was the first TCI tennis champion. A keen sailor, he has won many sail boat races. He is also a fisherman and a hunter.