Archive for June 21st, 2009

More tax info deals expected this week

| 21/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(FT.Com) A flurry of deals to help in the pursuit of evaders hiding money offshore will be signed this week as finance ministers meet in Berlin on Tuesday to review the international crackdown on tax havens. More than 30 tax information exchange agreements have been signed since November, as offshore centres race to avoid sanctions. The meeting, organised by the French and German finance ministries, has a symbolic importance because it will be attended byHans-Rudolf Merz, Swiss finance minister. The Swiss agreement to bow to international pressure in March was a crucial step in the international bid to end banking secrecy.

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Cruise industry complains about Turtle Farm

| 21/06/2009 | 29 Comments

(CNS): On his recent visit to the United States, the new Leader of Government Business and Minister for Tourism, McKeeva Bush, was told by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association that cruise passengers are confused by the re-naming of Boatswain Beach. The cruise organisation said consumers think that they are paying to go to a beach when they book tours there and that the cost of the tour is too expensive to be able to significantly increase volumes of visitors to the attraction, which is currently receiving millions of dollars from government revenue to keep it afloat.

During his recent visit to Miami Bush and the CI delegation also heard that the FCCA was concerned about the dust, poor staging, lack of restroom facilities and lines at Spotts when cruise ships are forced to dock their during inclement weather and the cruise lines were considering bypassing Cayman on days when the George Town port was inoperable.

Bush told the FCCA however, that his government would enhance the destination and guest experience, which includes some much-needed improvements to the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal as well as Spotts facility.  Despite the mixed feelings about the need to develop cruise berthing facilities in the community, he told the cruise industry body that he is committed to developing the facilities. Bush has not yet said where the facilities will be developed or whether he will pick up the plans started by the previous administration with Atlantic Star.

Bush said he plans to dedicate resources to cruise tourism development, starting with a full time person dedicated to the industry. In addition to developing the product and facilities in Cayman his team were conscious to work on the business relationship with FCCA, which had reportedly been neglected in recent years.

During his time in Washington at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Annual Tourism Summit, Bush also met with US Congressman William Delahunt, who serves a House sub-committee responsible for Immigration matters, to discuss the establishment of US Immigration & Customs pre-clearance in Cayman. The men talked about having the US Immigration come to Cayman to conduct VISA interviews or perhaps even the use of videoconferencing technologies for the purposes of the interviews. The group also received a briefing on the US-UK Open Skies, the new aviation agreement between the US and EU, and how the Overseas Territories might consider approaching the UK to negotiate with the US on behalf of the OTs.

"Over the last two weeks we have been busy meeting with industry groups to determine what the Cayman Islands Government needs to do to move the needle on visitor arrivals,” Bush said. “I am confident that with some courage to tackle the real problems and a commitment to focus our efforts on developing the business of tourism, both inside and outside the Cayman Islands, we will reverse the trend of declining visitor arrivals within the next year and increase guest satisfaction levels.”

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Cayman catches more cases of swine flu

| 21/06/2009 | 1 Comment

(CNS): With test results from the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) on Friday, 19 June confirming another three cases of the novel H1N1 flu virus, (swine flu) there are now seven cases of flu on Grand Cayman with more expected over the coming days. The patients, two women and a man, all became sick after returning from visits to the United States, and all are recovering without complications or needing antiviral medication.  


“Given their travel history and the timeframe of their illnesses, we’re confident these are imported cases,” said Health Services Authority (HSA) Medical Director Dr. Greg Hoeksema. One family member is being evaluated to determine if there has been human-to-human transmission within a household.

Dr. Hoeksema points out that the HSA has been expecting more imported cases, given the frequency of travel between Cayman and the United States. “With the high volume of travel between the Cayman Islands and the US, it was inevitable that we would have additional imported cases. We can still expect even more since recent news reports indicate that a cool spring has prolonged the flu season in the United States.” 

Health officials say anyone who develops fever and flu-like symptoms should stay in home isolation until their symptoms have completely resolved. In addition to the novel H1N1 there are three other typical seasonal flu viruses still circulating in Cayman and the recommendation serves to mitigate the spread of all four influenza viruses.

“The illness associated with the novel H1N1 flu virus is mild,” added Dr. Hoeksema. “Our advice is to stay at home and only seek medical care with your regular physician if you are concerned about the severity of your illness. However, persons who are at increased risk of developing complications of the flu should visit their doctor. These include children under five, people over 65, people with serious chronic medical problems, people with immune deficiency, and women who are pregnant.”

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Regulator & accountants charged in Stanford case

| 21/06/2009 | 3 Comments

(CNS): Antigua’s Securities and Exchange Commission has charged two accountants who produced bogus financial statements and an Antiguan regulator who took bribes to look the other way as Robert Allen Stanford conducted an alleged $8 billion Ponzi scheme. According to an SEC release Mark Kuhrt and Gilberto Lopez, accountants for Stanford-affiliated companies and Leroy King, the administrator and chief executive officer of the Financial Services Regulatory Commission (FSRC) were charged on Friday.

Kuhrt and Gilberto allegedly fabricated financial statements to give investors the false illusion that their investments were solid, safe and secure, while King is accussed of accepting thousands of dollars per month in bribes to ignore the Stanford Ponzi scheme and supply Stanford himself with confidential information about the SEC’s investigation. King obstructed the SEC’s case since 2005, when its investigation into Stanford began.

The SEC previously charged Stanford and his companies — Antiguan-based Stanford International Bank (SIB), Houston-based broker-dealer and investment adviser Stanford Group Company (SGC), and investment adviser Stanford Capital Management — as well as SIB chief financial officer James Davis and Stanford Financial Group chief investment officer Laura Pendergest-Holt with securities fraud in an enforcement action filed in federal court in Dallas on February 17.

The SEC’s additional charges are in coordination with criminal authorities. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today simultaneously announced federal fraud charges against Stanford, Davis, Pendergast-Holt, King, Kuhrt, and Lopez. The DOJ also charged King, Kuhrt, and Lopez with conspiracy to obstruct the SEC’s investigation. The DOJ previously charged Pendergast-Holt with obstruction of justice in the SEC’s investigation.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Kuhrt and Lopez used a pre-determined return on investment number (typically provided by Stanford or Davis) to reverse-engineer the SIB’s financial statements and report investment income that the bank did not actually earn. Information in SIB’s financial statements and annual reports to investors bore no relationship to the actual performance of the bank investments.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that King facilitated the Ponzi scheme by ensuring that the FSRC conducted sham audits and examinations of SIB’s books and records. In exchange for bribes paid to him over a period of several years, King made sure that the FSRC did not examine SIB’s investment portfolio. King also provided Stanford with access to the FSRC’s confidential regulatory files on him, including the SEC’s requests for information from FSRC in its investigation. King went so far as to allow Stanford to essentially dictate the FSRC’s responses to the SEC on those information requests. King made false assurances that there was no cause for concern about Stanford International Bank. He collaborated with Stanford to withhold significant information being requested by the SEC.

The SEC said King is a citizen of the US as well as Antigua and Barbuda, West Indies. He maintains residences in both Atlanta and Antigua. Lopez lives in Spring, Texas, and worked in SFG’s Houston office as the chief accounting officer of SFG and its affiliate, Stanford Financial Group Global Management, LLC (SFGGM). Lopez provided accounting services to many entities under Stanford’s control, including SIB, SFG and SFGGM. Kuhrt is a resident of Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, and is the global controller for SFGGM. He provided accounting services to many entities under Stanford’s control, including SIB, SFG, and SFGGM. Kuhrt reported at various times to Lopez and Davis, but also directly to Stanford. Neither Lopez nor Kuhrt is a certified public accountant (CPA).

The SEC’s complaint charges the defendants with violating and/or aiding and abetting violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933; Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder; Sections 206(1) and 206(2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940; and Section 7(d) of the Investment Company Act of 1940. The SEC’s action seeks permanent injunctions, financial penalties, and disgorgement of ill-gotten proceeds plus prejudgment interest.

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US to outlaw vulture funds

| 21/06/2009 | 0 Comments

(Guardian): The US Congress has begun moves to outlaw so-called "vulture funds", which buy up the sovereign debt of poor countries at a knock-down price and then go to court to enforce full payment. A Democrat congresswoman, Maxine Waters, has introduced the Stop Vulture Funds Act, designed to protect impoverished countries from lawsuits by vulture funds. Most vulture funds are based either in the US or offshore centres such as the Cayman Islands. "Over the past year, we have seen how the actions of a small number of unscrupulous and exploitative investors can hurt innocent people and cause economic chaos” said Waters.


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Marine cops train with navy

| 21/06/2009 | 1 Comment

(CNS): Cayman’s own law enforcement authorities were working alongside both the British Navy and the Jamaican Defence Force Coast Guard recently when they took part in a multi-agency training exercise. The joint Customs, Immigration and Police Marine Unit tested their ability to intercept suspect vessels and carry out search and rescue operations. Led by Chief Inspector Courtney Myles, the officers travelled to Port Royal in Jamaica aboard the 65-foot Cayman Guardian where they met with the Jamaican Coast Guard and Largs Bay of the RFA (Royal Fleet Auxillary).

During the exercise information passed to the agencies that a suspect boat was in an area some 20 miles north of Montego Bay. The Marine Unit and the Coast Guard were given some vague coordinates and were instructed to locate and intercept the vessel at their best speed. Officers decided to deploy air support to obtain an accurate location of the vessel – a decision which resulted in a precise location being identified. A joint take down commenced following a short pursuit with the suspect vessel.

“This really highlighted to us the huge benefits of using air support,” said Chief Inspector Courtney Myles. “Had we not deployed the helicopter, we would not have gained an accurate location of the vessel and we would have spent a great amount of time searching for it – chances are we may never have found it.”

The team was then informed that a package had been discarded into the water by those on the suspect vessel and they were tasked with locating it. After a brief search the package was recovered.

Nest the agencies were instructed to locate a man who had fallen overboard and ensure he received medical attention. The man was found approximately seven miles away and received the necessary treatment from staff of RFA Largs Bay and the Jamaican Coast Guard. During the debrief after the exercise, the Commander of Largs Bay, Captain Trevor J Isles said how impressed he was with the performance of the Jamaican Coast Guard and the Maine Unit, bearing in mind that this was the first exercise of its kind. He stated that he would pass on the success of the venture to other Navy ships so that future exercises can be carried out when vessels are in the area.

“Aside from putting our skills to the test, this was an excellent opportunity to make connections and build relationships with officers from our partner agencies,” Myles added. “When we have live situations occurring, these relationships are invaluable.”

Anyone with information about crime taking place in the Cayman Islands should contact their local police station 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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