Not a lot of people know this but
Pirates have allowable expenses, the same as any other business!
We’ve all had trouble filling in tax returns, haven’t we? Pirates are people too and like us they turn to accountants when that time of the year rears its ugly head. This extract from my forthcoming book, The Kaiteur Caper, explains some of the expenses that could be offset against tax.
This Karno adventure is set in Guyana, South America. Karno is hot on the trail of an old adversary but is he walking into a trap? All will be revealed in the near future but in the meantime I hope you enjoy this short extract.
Extract from Chapter Eleven
The Kaiteur Caper
“I understand that you were born in Guyana Mister Cohen?” Rosie asked, breaking the slightly awkward silence.
“Indeed I was Miss Stone. Might I suggest we order lunch and I’ll tell you something of my family history. Perhaps we might be less formal if that is agreeable to everybody? Call me Bee Bee.”
“Like the Israeli Prime Minister?”
“He’s Bibi, no Bee Bee, double B.”
“This may surprise you, short for Black Bagel. We order lunch and I’ll tell you all about it.” He turned in his seat and signalled to a waiter.
“The food is heavily influenced by those who migrated here. It’s a sort of Indo-Chinese melange, one might say. Many spicy sauces and rice dishes. Dhal, roti and beans mainly although there are meat dishes. Look at the menu of course but would you be happy for me to make suggestions?”
They were. The order was placed and Bill signalled to Mister Khan for a fresh round.
“So where does Black Bagel come from?” Rosie was intrigued.
“It is a somewhat complicated story but in essence one of my ancestors came to this area and was…”
“A real pirate of the Caribbean!” Rosie squeaked excitedly.
“Ah no, not exactly. True the original Black Bagel was associated with pirates from time to time but more in an accounting capacity, if I may put it like that.”
Karno was becoming interested now.
“You mean he was an accountant?”
“Of Sorts, yes. My family, like many others were thrown out of Spain in fourteen ninety two and they fled to Portugal. One brother went to what would become Holland and the other made his way out to the Caribbean. The Spanish prohibited Jews from going to their New World but by various ruses we came anyway, one such adventurer was my great great, several times great, great uncle. He settled in Brazil but due to persecution there went to Jamaica. Somehow or other the family managed to keep in touch and when the Dutch won their independence from Spain they began colonising parts of the Caribbean. Again a long story but when the Dutch under Admiral Piet Hein decided to attack the annual Spanish treasure fleet my ancestor, Black Bagel, was on board. In fact, he was the one who discovered where the fleet was to rendezvous.”
“Wow, that’s quite a story!” Rosie was impressed and the others were openly fascinated.
“Well it does get better. You see Black Bagel found out that the treasure fleet was going to rendezvous at Matanzas Bay, in Cuba. He was the one who suggested to Hein that the Dutch wait in the bay disguised as Spanish ships and capture the fleet ship by ship as they arrived.”
“Didn’t the fleet sail together?” Asked Karno.
“Not initially, no. They began their voyage to Spain In small groups, from various ports in what is now Panama and Colombia. The Spanish mined gold and silver in South America but they also had a colony in the Philippines. The Galleons used to make a regular run from Panama to Manilla. They’d return and the gold and valuables would be offloaded, transferred by mule train to the Caribbean side and shipped to Spain. It was too difficult to co-ordinate a rendezvous at a South American mainland port, partially due to communications but mainly because there really were pirates in the Caribbean in those days so sailing along the coast wasn’t a particularly smart move. What they settled on was a rendezvous between certain dates at an island and from there the entire fleet would sail for Spain. This particular year, sixteen twenty eight, Black Bagel discovered the place where the fleet would assemble and that was that. The Dutch got their hands on almost the entire fleet. There was reputedly ninety tons of gold and silver not to mention assorted jewels and other valuables.”
“I suppose that Black Bagel overheard a conversation on an hotel balcony?” Karno asked dryly. Cohen was amused. The others demanded he continue the story.
“How much was all that lot worth?” Bill asked.
“After deducting expenses, three million pesos. In today’s money I suppose that would be around one billion US dollars.”
“After expenses?” Karno was always the detective. Black Bagel looked faintly embarrassed.
“Yes expenses. There was a finder’s fee of course and um, well my ancestor was an accountant. The family legend is that in fact the treasure amounted to four million pesos before deductions and expenses. Do you know that Black Bagel may have invented double-entry bookkeeping?”
“He may have done. Certainly there were most likely two sets of accounts, one for the Admiral and one for Black Bagel but he did bamboozle Admiral Hein with some sort of double-entry system as well. As a matter of fact he called it a Double-Dutch system, in honour of Hein.”
“You said he was an accountant to the pirates. Surely this Admiral Hein wasn’t a pirate?” Asked Rosie.
“The Spanish though he was.” Retorted Cohen.
“Do pirates need accountants?” wondered Gundry.
“Most certainly they do. You understand pirates need a base somewhere and in those days they mainly based themselves in Jamaica, which was controlled by Britain as it happens. In return for being left alone they would pay what you might call a tax. As everybody knows, no matter what country you live in when it comes to filling out a tax return you really need an accountant to make sure that you claim all the allowances.”
“Allowances? What bloody allowances can pirates claim?”
“Oh you’d be surprised. Eye patches and headscarves for example. They were almost a mandatory uniform so they could be offset. Cutlass-sharpening equipment, planks. Planks don’t last forever. Wear and tear on the sails, annual ship maintenance in general not to mention of course that the ship itself was a necessary business item and so there would be an annual depreciation allowance.”
“Disney never thought of that lot!” Bill laughed.
“It just goes to prove that accountants really are a must if you’re in business. Anyway, Black Bagel stayed in Jamaica for a while but when the pirates were finally put out of business he came and settled in Guyana. I was born here in Georgetown but my parents migrated to Israel when I was seven. My father was in the diamond business but when Guyana became friendly with the Soviet Union things became a little difficult for diamond merchants, that’s why we left. He still had some contacts though so I’m carrying on the family tradition.”