Archive for March 23rd, 2009

Sabrina’s body identified

| 23/03/2009 | 14 Comments

(CNS): A post mortem of murder victim 21-year-old Sabrina Schirn by a forensic pathologist from Miami has revealed that she suffered multiple sharp force and chop injuries. Formal identification of the body, which was found in bush land in East End on Tuesday 17 March, took place over the weekend, though police cannot confirm the time of death at this time and enquiries into this continue. “This was clearly an act of extreme violence which resulted in the tragic death of young Sabrina,” said Detective Inspector Kim Evans. “Our condolences go out to her family and friends.”

A major incident room continues to operate from Bodden Town police station staffed with experienced detectives who are being supported by numerous officers from departments including Scenes of Crime, Family Support Unit and officers from the Financial Crime Unit.

“Our team is working exceptionally hard to find outwhat happened to Sabrina and bring her killer or killers to justice. We are comfortable with how the investigation is going so far and a number of positive lines of enquiry are being followed up,” said Evans. He noted, however, that it would be reckless to publicly go into detail about any of the leads that are being looked at, stressing that all avenues are being examined.

Detectives continue to appeal for sightings of Sabrina and the Honda Torneo that she was last known to be using. Evans also appealed for information from anyone who may have been in the High Rock Road area between the morning of Wednesday, 11 March, and Tuesday, 17 March.

““Were you in the area? Did you see anything that looked out of place or anyone acting suspiciously? Even the smallest piece of information could prove crucial to the enquiry,” he said.

Anyone who can assist is asked to contact the Major Incident Room at Bodden Town police station on 947-2220 or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS). All persons calling Crime Stoppers remain anonymous, and are eligible for a reward of up to $1000, should their information lead to an arrest or recovery of property/drugs.

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Third violent incident

| 23/03/2009 | 26 Comments

(CNS): Police have made arrests for a serious assault, one of three very violent incidents that occurred this weekend. This follows reports of a shooting Sunday morning and a stabbing in the early hours of Saturday. In the third incident, three men were arrested at the Owen Roberts International  Airport on Sunday, 22 March, on suspicion of attempted murder by officers investigating the serious assault of a 23-year-old man who is currently in hospital with serious lacerations to his head, arms and legs.

Police said that at around 4:35 am Sunday morning, 22 March, the 911 Emergency Communications Centre received a call from a member of the public reporting that an incident was taking place at the Cay Courts Apartments area on Newport Road, George Town. Police responded to the scene and found a man with serious wounds.

Detectives from George Town Criminal Investigation Department started an investigation which led to the arrest of the three men, two aged 26 and one aged 24. All three remain in police custody at this time, the RCIPS stated, while the victim is said to be in a stable condition and remains under medical care.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact George Town CID on 949-4222 or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS). All persons calling Crime Stoppers remain anonymous, and are eligible for a reward of up to $1000, should their information lead to an arrest or recovery of property/drugs.

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World Meteorological Day

| 23/03/2009 | 0 Comments

Every year, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the international meteorological community celebrate World Meteorological Day; the theme in 2009 is “Weather, climate and the air we breathe”.

The theme is particularly appropriate at a time when communities around the globe, including the Cayman Islands are struggling to increase their effectiveness in preventing and mitigating natural disasters, of which 90 per cent are directly related to weather, climate and water hazards.

This year the celebration falls on March 23rd.

In 2008 the Cayman Islands were impacted by Hurricane Paloma, the second strongest November hurricane on record.

The year before in August 2007, the Cayman Islands narrowly missed the full impact of Hurricane Dean. Hurricane Dean was the seventh most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. In 2005 the most intense hurricane on record, Hurricane Wilma formed 220 miles East South East of Grand Cayman and passed to the South of the Cayman Islands. And of course in 2004, the 9th most intense hurricane recorded, Hurricane Ivan, raked the southern coast of Grand Cayman and caused large scale property damage.

The recent pattern seems to indicate we are in period of more intense and more frequent hurricanes in our area, and whether this increased activity is linked to the El-Nino-Southern Oscillation, or the possible effects of global warming, it emphasizes the need for preparedness and planning.

The Cayman Islands Government recognized this need when they formed Hazard Management Cayman Islands, a dedicated agency with responsibilities for preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery. Hazard Management Cayman Islands deals with all hazards including natural events such as hurricanes but also man made disasters and threats. They also have responsibility for maintaining National Hazard Management plans.

In recent years improvements havebeen made in storm surge modeling and flood maps have been produced for the Cayman Islands.
These are important steps because the information helps to better inform both the general population and decision makers. It is also relevant with the increasing world wide acceptance of the threat posed by global warming, particularly for low-lying islands which flood such as the Cayman Islands.

The vast majority of scientists now regard global warming as a reality. Multidisciplinary research from the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-2008 provides new evidence of the widespread effects of global warming in the Polar Regions. Snow and ice are declining in both Polar Regions.

The WMO/UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns of increases in the frequency and intensity of floods, droughts, heatwaves and other meteorological hazards that directly impact agriculture, coral reefs and fisheries. Higher global temperatures will also put crops and fish stocks at increased risk of disease and pests.

Key sectors such as agriculture, energy, tourism and health will be among those most affected by the impact of climate change on water resources, for example, reduced water availability, a deterioration in water quality, increased runoff and an increase in the salinisation of groundwater are all expected as a result of sea-level rise.

There are steps the Cayman Islands can take to proactively reduce the threats and the possible impacts we face. The National Weather Service in the Cayman Islands has access to state of the art equipment that helps us to predict and forecast the timing and intensity of severe weather events. Businesses, families and individuals can take the time to put together their own hurricane plans. We can prepare.

Strict building codes and proactive enforcement makes the Cayman Islands more resilient than many of our neighbours to extreme weather events, but on World Meteorological day perhaps it is a good time to start our preparations for the beginning of hurricane season in June.

For more information please contact Simon Boxall, Hazard Management Cayman Islands at 916-3766 or

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Man charged for murder after deathbed confession

| 23/03/2009 | 0 Comments

(BBC): A US man who thought he was dying and confessed to having killed a neighbour in 1977 has been charged with murder after making a recovery, US media say. James Brewer could now face the death penalty over the unsolved killing in Tennessee 32 years ago, reports say. Convinced he was dying after a stroke, Mr Brewer reportedly admitted to police he shot dead 20-year-old Jimmy Carroll. The 58-year-old, who had fled Tennessee after the killing, was arrested after his condition improved, reports say.

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Signet braced for fallout from Weavering collapse

| 23/03/2009 | 0 Comments

(Times Online): Signet, the fund manager, emerged today as a potential victim of the collapse of Weavering Capital, the hedge fund manager. Weavering Capital was placed into voluntary administration last Friday after its flagship fund, the Cayman Islands-registered Weavering Macro Fixed Income Fund, was put into liquidation. The fund, which had been valued at $506million (£350million), was forced to call in accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers after being hit by a wave of redemptions which it was unable to satisfy. A subsequent investigation by PwC revealed that the fund’s only major asset was a $637million interest rate swap with a company registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), controlled by Magnus Peterson, Weavering’s chief executive.

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Bracker headed to CARIFTA

| 23/03/2009 | 2 Comments

(CNS): On Saturday night in front of a crowd of his fellow Brackers, Andrew Frederick learned that he had been chosen to represent the Cayman Islands at the CARIFTA games in St. Lucia over the Easter week. As he accepted theaward at the Sports Asociation of the Sister Islands Annual Banquet for the Track and Field Athlete of the Year, T&F Brac Coach Flynn Bush announced that 15-year-old Frederick would be competing in the Under-17 Discus and Shot Put events, and will be the first thrower and third track athlete from Cayman Brac to be entered into CARIFTA.


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UK synthetic blood project

| 23/03/2009 | 0 Comments

(The Independent): A major research project is to be announced this week that will culminate in three years with the first transfusions into human volunteers of "synthetic" blood made from the stem cells of spare IVF embryos. It could help to save the lives of anyone from victims of traffic accidents to soldiers on a battlefield by revolutionising the vital blood transfusion services, which have to rely on a network of human donors to provide a constant supply of fresh blood. The multimillion-pound deal involving NHS Blood and Transplant, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service and the Wellcome Trust, the world’s biggest medical research charity, means Britain will take centre stage in the global race to develop blood made from embryonic stem cells.

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Brown plans global scrutiny of tax havens

| 23/03/2009 | 0 Comments

(The Guardian): Tax havens will be forced to submit themselves to international scrutiny under plans to tackle their culture of secrecy being proposed by Gordon Brown. Despite a rearguard action by tax havens, the prime minister intends next week’s G20 summit to discuss plans for a multilateral exchange of information on "offshore" accounts. Brown will also propose using the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to boost the world economy as he seeks to focus on greater international cooperation, rather than divisions between the US and European governments over whether the financial system needs more fiscal stimulus or more regulation.

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Cuts fund SPIT & CUC

| 23/03/2009 | 23 Comments

(CNS): Although every government department has made significant cuts to reduce spending in the face of the economic crisis, none of the savings have made their way to the treasury coffers. The need to pay almost $4.5 million for the Special Police Investigation and a further $6 million to CUC customers for the rebate, means that all the cuts in services have been absorbed by these and other unexpected government expenses. This has resulted in an addition to the operating budget rather than a reduction as was hoped when government asked for a 6% cut in spending across departments.

In a marathon finance committee sitting which started around 5:00 pm in the evening on Friday and continued until 1:00 am Saturday morning, legislators were faced with an appropriation document which was 199 pages long. The document was laid on the table of the house at around 11:00 am, which led Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush to raise his objection to the amount of time members were being given to study such an important document before they were expected to vote on the line items in committee.

Entering into what would be the first altercation of the day with government and Madame Speaker, Bush demanded more time. “We have been a reasonable opposition and we are only just seeing this document,” he said. “It is extremely important that as an opposition we get to examine this we demand more time to go through it.”

Despite his pleas and insistence, the deadline of the dissolution of parliament prevented more time being found as the House must conclude all its business before midnight on Monday evening. Consequently, after a long and heavy day ploughing through a number of important bills the members faced the task of examining the cuts and expenditures of government that had led to such a huge appropriation document coming before them at the eleventh hour.

Education, mosquito control, counselling and district health services, legal services, prisoner rehabilitation services and the police have all seen major budget reductions and cuts,while the introduction of the FOI law, the forthcoming general elections and referendum as well as the impact of hurricanes on the Sister Islands all required new money. However, most of the new requests were considerably less significant when compared to the $6,000,000 requested for the Residential Electricity Fuel Duty Rebate for CUC consumers, the $4,444,744 for the Special Police Investigation, and the $2,063,000 to meet the growing interest rate on public debt.

There were 104 requests for changes and 85 were reductions and only 19 increases but the result is that government’s operating costs have still increased by $4.3 million. Moreover, with revenue down some $21 million the coffers remain in deficit. Every single ministry and government entity has made significant cuts to reduce the overall budget, however, because of the major appropriations the government operating budget has still increased.

Introducing the document at the start of Finance Committee, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said the world was in deep crisis and every country was being adversely affected but Cayman would weather the storm and things were not as bad as some would believe. “As a result of mis-information about the state of the economy people may be confused as to the true picture,” he said, adding that reports of Cayman receiving a terrible assessment from Moody’s were false and Cayman had retained its triple A credit rating. He said the purpose of this budget appropriation was to present an honest picture and he said the budget reductions were efficiencies and not cuts. He said the people would not bear the brunt and social services would not be cut.

Tibbetts explained that there was more than $20 million in unexpected spending, including the significant amount for SPIT, which he said he believed the tax payers should not have to pay but, as had been widely reported, his opinion had been over-ruled. He said that despite the problems the budget was compliant except in its ability to project on operating surplus.

Bush condemned the government’s mismanagement and said that the opposition had voted against the budget last year as it was obvious then that it was unrealistic.  “What we have before us is a fidget, not a budget,” Bush said, adding that government should have been more open back in June about what have now been revealed to be over projections about earnings. Again he cited the opposition’s fundamental objection to the hurry over the appropriation. “We are objecting to the rush to go through this 199 pages, just at a glance it’s easy to see revenue is off by around $21 million giving us a deficit of around $28 million."

"The country is in jeopardy,” he said. “If the budget drops further we won’t be compliant with the requirements of the PMFL and we are already off in one area.”

He also noted that as there have been few audited accounts tabled during the last four years the country cannot know the real state of the government finances and it was impossible to know how safe the country is. “The government is calling for the country to come together and I agree. We need to call on the country to remove an inept government,” he said.

Keep checking CNS this week for details of cuts and spending across all government ministries and departments. 

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Stamp and customs duty cut to boost economy

| 23/03/2009 | 8 Comments

(CNS):  Continuing the legislative sprint to the finish, the members of the Legislative Assembly passed another five pieces of legislation on Friday including amendments to the Customs Tariff and the Stamp Duty bills in a bid to boost development and the real estate industry. Duty on construction materials is to be reduced by 5% and stamp duty is being cut across the island by as much as 2.5% for buyers in the Seven Mile Beach area and 1% elsewhere.

The customs duty reduction will stay in place until January 2010 and the stamp duty window will last only until 1 October 2009. The explanation for the short window of opportunity was, government said, to ensure the flurry of activity associated with stamp duty reductions, which is normally concentrated towards the end of the period, would make an impact on Cayman’s economy sooner rather than later.

Described by Financial Secretary Kenneth Jefferson, who laid the two pieces of legislation on the table, as a package to stimulate the economy, the opposition criticised the moves as too little too late insisting that there was no evidence that such moves would do anything at all to help the people in Cayman who are actually suffering more than ever before.

“People can’t eat cement,” Second Elected Member for West Bay Rolstin Anglin noted with irony. “The economy is in really, really bad shape. We have people coming to us for help that we would never have dreamed would find themselves in such a position. These people don’t even know where the social service department is as they have never needed help ever before.” He said a bill to stimulate real estate would not address the problem. “Does the government believe people are just going to suddenly jump up and build, that we have lots of rich people, rich Caymanians, just sitting around waiting for a break in duty to start building?”

Anglin said that if government had come with a more comprehensive list of duty reductions on things the people actually buy it would at least be something people could understand, but reductions in stamp duty and construction materials were too little too late given the fact that duty was the least of the reasons why so many developers had decided not to build or invest in Cayman. He said the bills were a desperate last attempt to address the government’s long term mismanagement of the economy and gain votes.

The government, however, argued that the 5% reductions on most building materials and significant reductions on stamp duty would stimulate some investment, especially as it was combined with a commitment by the real estate sector to cut commissions industry wide by around 20%.

“We are not suggesting it is a magic bullet. We believe this, together with a reduction in real estate commissions, will have the effect of stimulating real estate development and activity,” said Minister Alden McLaughlin, adding that boosting development was important given how many Caymanians were employed in the construction industry. He explained that this at least was a way of creating new jobs to replace many that would likely be lost in the coming months as major projects finish and few new ones were yet on the horizon.

The government also pushed through three other pieces of legislation, two of which were important changes for the offshore industry.  Amendments to the Companies Law to regulate mergers and the Exempted Limited Partnership Law to regulate wind-ups and dissolutions have been long anticipated by the offshore industry as the changes will offer the industry a much needed opportunity to attract more work to the jurisdiction.

The bills received support from both sides of the House but not before they provided the opposition with another opportunity to criticise the government for the delays in bringing such crucial amendments before the Assembly. The government had stated that the delays were due to a shortage of specialist staff in the legal drafting department.

“Given the contribution that financial services makes to the economy and government revenue one would think that whatever resources are necessary would be allocated to ensure that these bills could be completed in order to avoid missing commercial opportunities,” Anglin said, adding that given the impressive amount of legislation that had suddenly come through the House in the last few weeks, the drafting problems must have been resolved. McLaughlin once again responded to the charges on behalf of government and said despite the inference that government was rushing things through only because of the election, the world would not end on 20 May.

During the day’s debate the members engaged in a number of heated exchanges where Madame Speaker was forced to intervene as the insults flew and voices were raised. Referring to the members as “children” on at least one occasion, the pressure of time was apparent as the day wore on. She tried in vain to make members stay within the parameters of the laws for the debates and not wander into unrelated areas, which caused not only further argument and tit-for-tat on both sides of the floor but absorbed precious time, threatening to upset the government’s tight timeline.

The fifth bill passed on Friday before the evening’s Finance Committee sitting was an amendment to the Public Management and Finance Law to protect the privacy of patient medical records held by the HSA from financial audits.

The Legislative Assembly will meet for one more day of business on Monday, 23 March, before parliament is dissolved in an official ceremony on Tuesday, 24 March, in preparation for the 20 May General Elections.

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